The one I couldn’t wait to pop in and listen to was Fatted Calf Stringband. I just heard of the band about a week ago, that they sometimes played squaredances. I am not a squaredancer, but I do like strings! So when I saw the CD, I took a look. The first thing I do when picking out music is look at the album art and track names, but this simple, embossed cardboard cover didn’t say anything but “Fatted Calf Stringband.” It was also the most expensive of all the CDs I had in my hand at that moment (but still only $10!). What made me buy it? Well… 1) it’s local music 2) it’s strings and 3) the minimalistic, uninformative cover had red stars on it. I’m a sailor. I like red stars. If it had had one red star on the left and one green star on the right (red for port, green for starboard), I would’ve paid more than $10 for it, but then I would have expected sea chanteys. So the two red stars are perfect. (Your homework: Look for green 5-point stars. They are extremely hard to find. Scrapbooking supplies, rubber stamps, iron-on patches… stars come in red, white, blue, gold, silver, and sometimes white. No green. What does the world have against starboard?)
Anyway, I bought the thing, carefully unwrapped it, and pulled out the single-sheet insert. I didn’t recognize any of the track names. The straight-to-the-point liner notes say: “Recorded in one day with one mic by Mike Bridavsky at Russian Recording, Bloomington, Indiana. The Fatted Calf Stringband is: Brad Baute fiddle/guitar Joel Lensch fiddle/guitar Alex Mann bass Chris Mattingly banjo.” Just “one day.” Not which day, which year, etc. Just “one day… in Bloomington, Indiana.” I like it.
So how does it sound? It sounds like a fantastic sampler of a band you really want to see live. This isn’t surprising, given the genre. This is music that is meant to be seen, heard, and experienced. It’s best with a little give and take, a little audience interaction. For now it’s a substitute for “the real thing,” great for a work day you just can’t escape or a drive in the car.
To discover more of Fatted Calf, including streaming audio, check out their Myspace page