Released in 2021 by the Old-Time Tiki Parlour, Allsorts Orchestra is the second full-length album by Skillet Licorice, the San Francisco Bay-area roots-music duo of Elise Engelberg and Matt Knoth. Here, the two are joined by a 10-member orchestra, featuring West Coast old-time musicians, such as Suzy Thompson, Meredith Axelrod, Craig Ventresco, and the Kentucky-born Clinton Ross Davis, among others. The group provides a different look at old-time music, as well as folk traditions from other regions of the United States and across the globe.
Skillet Licorice takes the typical old-time album concept and turns it on its head, providing a heavy dose of dreamy waltzes and slower tunes that are punctuated with brief forays into the realm of the fast and raucous. The tunes offer varied instrumentation that provides the listener with a layered soundscape that balances traditional and modern interpretations of the music. The lush recordings reward multiple listenings, as new textures emerge from each performance.
The influence of the East Texas Serenaders permeates the album, six of the 12 tunes being derived from their repertoire, with sprinklings from Southern Appalachia, the Tohono Oʼodham Nation of Arizona, and Scandivnavia.
The album kicks off with a trio of waltzes from the East Texas Serenaders, “Shannon Waltz,” “Adeline Waltz,” and “Meadow Brook Waltz,” followed by “Tater Vals,” a Scandinavian waltz, before diverging into an ethereal rendition of “Bright Sunny South,” featuring bouncing banjo playing backed by an ambient ebo (an electronic bow on guitar strings). Another Scandinavian tune, “Metsakukkia,” followed by another East Texas Serenaders number, “Del Rio Waltz,” round out the opening septet of slower pieces.
The next four tunes crank up the tempo, starting with “Libby Bird Song Mazurka,” a lively tune from the Gu-Achi Fiddlers, the first commercially recorded string band from the Tohono Oʼodham Nation. On an album full of excellent performances, the rendition of “Geese Honking,” from the playing of Clyde Davenport, is a real standout. Skillet Licorice follows that up with the bouncy “Dora Dean,” from the playing of Ed Haley and Brad Leftwich, before closing with two more from the East Texas Serenaders, the up-tempo “3-in-1 2-Step” and “Del Rio Reprise.”
The CD comes packaged in a handsomely designed trifold digipak, with a 20-page booklet that provides historical and anecdotal information about the tune sources, arrangements, and how the band approached the music. The album is also available in LP format, on limited-edition green vinyl from the Old-Time Tiki Parlour.
The arrangement of the tunes on Allsorts Orchestra feels much like being submerged in a warm bath and then cranking up the heat – before you know it, you’re cooking.
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