The Kropotkins could be considered an alt-rock/underground supergroup: it's made up of Lorette Velvette (the Hellcats, Tav Falco's Panther Burns); avant-classical violinist Dave Soldier (the Soldier String Quartet, Elliott Sharp, John Cale); Moe Tucker (Velvet Underground); Jonathan Kane (Swans); jazz violinist Charlie Burnham (James Blood Ulmer, Ronald Shannon Jackson); and guitarist Dog (drummer/composer Samm Bennett). The Kropotkins use the vocabulary of Delta blues, old Southern backcountry fife-&-drum music, and raw rock 'n' roll, which ends up sounding something like a skiffle group from hell or Leatherface's back-porch string band. Scratchy fiddle, yowling electric slide guitar, drums that alternately sound martial then harmolodic à la Ornette Coleman, percussion coming over the shortwave from Jamaica and West Africa, and the deadpan stray-cat vocals of Ms. Velette lead you through areas of New York and the rural South that you'll never see on a tourism commercial. The '77-era Mekons-like "Seconds Past Midnight" seems to chronicle the last hours (or an S/M session) of some schnook ("they brushed his hair and beat him tenderly/ that fool thought death didn't know his name"), and the stark, swampy, slithering blues that is "Junior's Groove" might make R.L. Burnside join the priesthood. Their music doesn't merely draw upon the blues tradition for its mojo -- it draws upon the African roots of the blues, without ever coming off as wannabe ethnomusicologists.
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