How is it possible not to love a CD of resophonic mandolin and guitar that instructs the record shop to file it under "Obsolete Ragtime and Sentimental Song"? When it comes to the brilliant Northside Southpaws, the answer is that it's simply impossible.
Consisting of two lefties, John Hasbrouck on resonator mandolin and Matt Gandurski on resonator guitar, the Southpaws hail from the fertile fields of Chicagoland, where blues, ragtime, jazz, swing and old-time country intermingle insatiably and musicians find influences from Old Town to Evanston to the South Side.
The result sounds a bit like Mike Compton and David Long doing their ruthlessly beautiful and authentic country blues duets, only featuring more urban roots sounds than Delta blues and deep hollow country (although the Southpaws have plenty of that in their bag of tricks, as well).
Mandolinist John Hasbrouck is a true master of the exotic resophonic style of mandolin. If you still harbor delusions that the mechanically amplified version of the acoustic mandolin can sound only hard-edged and ragged to the bone, listen here with fresh ears.
Hasbrouck's wonderful touch and deft technique often left me thinking he'd switched a more conventional mandolin in on some of the cuts. Nope, it's all done on a National Reso-Phonic Guitars Inc. eight-string mandolin, and I'm here to say it sounds just great on the material presented.
The same goes for guitarist Matt Gandurski, who is so tasteful and understated he always seems to play just the right chord, lick or rhythm chop that Hasbrouck's mandolin line was calling out for.
The material is an amazing mix of familiar tunes like "Blackberry Rag" to a wealth of classic ragtime-era material like "Tanner's Rag". No cut is longer than 3:25, so everything here glides by like a midnight freight highballing through the northern Illinois prairieland.
"Stomp Glide Wobble" is to my ears one of the best mandolin CDs of the year, filled with an unspoiled sound and infectious enthusiasm that will win over fans from bluegrass, jazz and swing, blues and other styles. Highly recommended.
The Northside Southpaws: Press
This much anticipated, particularly among mandolin lovers, all-instrumental debut CD by the Northside Southpaws was well worth the wait. The nimble fingered, Chicago-based duo are both left-handed and totally resophonic, with John Hasbrouck on National eight-string mandolin and Matt Gandurski on guitar. Their debut, mostly covers, self-produced effort (only a close-to-the vest, brief version of Tom Waits' nostalgic "Johnsburg, Illinois" is credited, however) features the pair on a fascinating mixture of archaic ragtime and hillbilly, early jazz and blues, proto-grass and other string band material played with an unspoiled, back-porch fluency that skips the pyrotechnics and possesses an enthusiasm that's bound to perk a listener's ears.
The Mississippi Mud Steppers, with famed mandolinist Charlie McCoy and guitarist Walter Vinson, were a 1930s recording off-shoot of the legendary Mississippi Sheiks and seem to be particular favorites of the team as they smartly revive, with some exceedingly intricate finger-picking elan, two of the Steppers classic stomps (dedicated, individually, to the southern cities of Jackson and Vicksburg) as well as their more languid, finesse filled "Morning Glory Waltz," where the pace is slowed considerably.
Other old-timey bands the duo borrow from include Gid Tanner and the Skillet Lickers (with the kinetic "Tanner's Rag"), the Three Stripped Gears (their marvelously astringent "Blackberry Rag") and the Scottsdale String Band with their popular, animated "Carbolic Rag." They also dip into waltz time for the charmingly restless "Rainbow Waltz," accelerate affairs nicely for the bluesy, up-tempo "Havana River Glide," conjure the tropics on a David Grisman-like "Kohala March" and head down Argentina way with a strings swinging redo of Angel Villoldo's signature tango "El Choclo" among others. Hot tip: if you're ever in the Windy City on a Friday night, you can catch the pair performing their magic in person at the Honky Tonk BBQ on 18th Street.
There's a raw edge on the blue side of the mandolin. Bill Monroe felt it...so did countless itinerant musicians that played for loose change on street corners. That's what The Northside Southpaws bring to the party, and you can hear the ties that Big Mon found and placed in bluegrass. A ragtime tune like "Havana River Glide" could have a place in a bluegrass setting with a few choice instrumental additions. However the sparking beauty that is in the essence of the tune exists in the blues duet form of The Southpaws. Gandurski's guitar work is purposely sparse and gritty, presenting tonal movement through bass-runs and short rhythmic licks that showcase Hasbrouck's equally punchy resonator mandolin work. Thus, when Gandurski does step out of his space, as heard on "Blackberry Rag," the result brings additional colour to the mix.
"Stomp Glide Wobble" is engrained in the blues and the performances are both passionate and gritty. Hasbrouck's tremolo passages on "Morning Glory Waltz" could easily be imagined a part of some street corner serenade or a Civil War campground. Yet the hint of a universal nature to music has a place here too. While the instrumental elements are resophonic, it's far from the slick, jazz-oriented sound that is circulating around the world of slide.
"Stomp Glide Wobble" takes no emotional or stylistic liberties. But the music that is present here would certainly be welcome in parking lot sessions or the occasional progressive-minded festival. For me, this is music that transcends mere labels. It a collection of sound that the pioneers of bluegrass heard, cherished and expanded into the style that has become bluegrass. It is not to be ignored! The performances here match the eloquence of the tradition and that's sayin' a mouthful. I think that people that see the music as more than a single-sided figure will find The Northside Southpaws as an exciting exception to what is musically available in this society. I found inspiration of my own in this music and that's also a mouthful. "Stomp Glide Wobble" is highly recommended for sure!
John Hasbrouck ranks as one of the Midwest's most gifted guitarists, but here he picks up a resonator mandolin to team with another leftie, Matt Gandurski (resonator guitar). The southpaws throw strikes as they stay true to acoustic genres from bluegrass (the hopping "Jackson Stomp") to Mediterranean-flavored balladry. (The D-minor "El Choclo" sounds ideal for a stroll in Venice.) Rags and stomps make up roughly half this sublime disc—but departures such as the pleasantly lulling "Rainbow Waltz" conjure dance floors of a different era, redolent with sawdust and salt spray, illumined by stars and gas lanterns.
The Northside part of this duo’s name refers to Chicago. The southpaw part derives from the fact that they both play left handed, but that probably doesn’t matter on CD. With John Hasbrouck on resonator mandolin and Matt Gandurski on resonator guitar, the music is all high energy, fun stuff. They play roots music, which is to say that they include old time string band tunes, rags, and waltzes, and play them very well, but with a modern sensibility. The duo has gotten the attention of the acoustic music world, now it’s your turn.
The Northside Southpaws (are) a mandolin/guitar duo from Chicago. They play left-handed instruments and focus on ragtime and early American roots music. (...) "Stomp Glide Wobble" is their debut CD. It contains thirteen nice finger-picking pieces in the old string band tradition. Both musicians have a lot of experience on their instruments and that can be heard. Technically spoken a perfect CD, with easy going string music. Besides that I like the way they recorded the CD. I don’t know what equipment they used, but they managed to create a warm and authentic vintage sound. "Stomp Glide Wobble" is recommended to all string band and finger-picking fans worldwide.
Listening to The Northside Southpaws‘ debut, Stomp Glide Wobble, conjures memories of sticky summer excursions to Six Flags Great America and stopping for lunch in the Hometown Square (before losing it on The Orbit). John Hasbrouck (mandolin) and Matt Gandurski (guitar) deftly fingerpick their way through 13 breezy instrumentals. Tango “El Choclo” stands out while “Johnsburg, Illinois” is as satisfying as idling down a Lazy River.
Mandolinist John Hasbrouck and guitarist Matt Gandurski play left-handed versions of their resonator instruments, which were created in the 1920s by National and Dobro. These instruments get their unique tones through the use of metal cones to project the sound, in contrast to the traditional wooden soundboard. Hasbrouck and Gandurski play in the older styles -- bluegrass, ragtime, blues -- for which these instruments were designed. They wear their mastery of this American music with ease, and don’t dazzle the listener with pyrotechnic displays. Instead, they play "Jackson Stomp," "Blackberry Rag," and "Vicksburg Stomp" in the manner of the Mississippi Mud Steppers and the Three Stripped Gears, string bands of more than 70 years ago. The result is enjoyable and relaxed, and lets the music’s magic speak for itself. Only after a few listens do the subtle interplay and virtuosity of the musicians become apparent. The recording has an immediate, living-room intimacy, and there are no overdubs. The disc ends with a contemporary song, Tom Waits’ "Johnsburg, Illinois," played with delicacy and deep feeling -- an honest close to a moving, beautiful disc.