Sunday, July 30, 2006

Ditty Bops, IOTA, 2005

I've got the Ditty Bops' Bicycle Bikini calendar. It always makes me feel a little pervy to look at it.

So great to hear these folks on the radio all the time these days. I hope to catch their next IOTA show--a busman's holiday.

Washington Post, Tuesday, June 14, 2005
The Ditty Bops

They're cuter than anything at the candy counter, their Web site is a playground for the brain, and the pink-haired one occasionally plays the slide whistle.

Fortunately, the Ditty Bops' quirky-hip image never overwhelmed their masterly tunes at Iota on Sunday night. The Los Angeles-based group makes the sort of music that evokes memories of the Boswell Sisters in mature listeners (several of whom were in evidence) and reminds the rest of us, pleasantly, of the recent animated film "The Triplets of Belleville."

Guitarist Abby DeWald and guitarist/mandolinist/washboardist/whistle-ist Amanda Barrett -- she of the cotton-candy hair -- crafted captivating soprano harmonies to go with the retro arrangements, aided by John Lambdin on fiddle, guitar and lap steel (and the occasional improvised poem) and Ian Walker on upright bass.

Close listening revealed some freaky lyrics (in the languid "Short Stacks": "I am treading on cow-pile mountains") more reminiscent of an acid-laced beatnik gathering than a vaudeville stage; the straight-faced, exuberant presentation swept the "What the . . . ?" moments into one big captivating feel-good rush. The between-song patter was equally intriguing: Barrett introduced the sweetly romantic "Dreaming Away" as having been written "by my dad in the '70s when he was with my mom in the traveling circus." "Nosy Neighbor" is "sung every Halloween in Paris," Lambdin quipped

Speaking of spooky, opener Mark Charles presented an intriguing set of gloom-folkie songs, concluding with "Death Is Not the End," whose lyrics about hell-burning flesh somehow made the title less reassurance than threat. Like the Ditty Bops, Charles reveled in the unexpected: His up-tempo arrangement of John Prine's "Sam Stone" made a sort of high-lonesome eulogy out of the addiction tragedy.

-- Pamela Murray Winters

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