Live Review

Alec Ounsworth, One Eyed Jacks, New Orleans

Ounsworth has left his circus tent megaphone and most of his bopping and beeping behind.

On a sleepy Wednesday night at One Eyed Jacks, Alec Ounsworth holds a modest gathering of New Orleanians in his sonic sway with a mile-wide set list that spans the breadth of his career. Fans of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah get to hear frontman Ounsworth sing the familiar ‘Gimme Some Salt’ and ‘On a Tidal Wave of Young Blood’, though his current company give the renditions a decidedly different feel.

If posed in a landscape of rolling Pennsylvania hills, Alex Ounsworth and his new touring band would simply look Amish; against the heavy red velvet curtain at the smoky little venue, they appear to be Amish hipsters. With all the facial hair, brimmed hats and suspenders, it’s difficult to imagine that this band’s could acoustically pick up where the bright-and-bouncy Clap Your Hands left off, and in fact, Ounsworth has left his circus tent megaphone and most of his bopping and beeping behind. Instead the most obvious constants are his distinctive warble and his predilection for built-up, crashing, expertly layered compositions.

Also playing are Matt Sutton, an ecstatic lead guitar and dobro player also of Brooklyn-based The Malarkies, and most of Philadelphia band The Teeth, including the mustachioed Brian Ashby on guitar, Peter MoDavis on bass, and Jonas Oesterle on drums. The obvious musician-love happening on stage between Oesterle and MoDavis has audience members swaying and stepping, wishing they could make it a love triangle. Ounsworth himself sticks pretty firmly to his keyboard seat, orchestrating some synthetic effects, coming in alone on a couple quiet pieces off his new album, but most often bumping out energetic numbers like ‘Bones in the Grave’ and ‘Me and You, Watson’.

Ounsworth recorded his album ‘Mo Beauty’ here in New Orleans with the help of several of the city’s finest players, a fact which gives his performance of ‘Holy, Holy, Holy Moses (song for New Orleans)’ the feeling of a tribute, especially played as a soft, poignant quitar duet with Sutton. It is therefore also fitting that he closes the night with the help of local legends of the brass Bonerama. Unfortunately by the time they take the stage it’s close to one in the morning, and all but the devotees have made their way home. Their faces display some surprise at the nearly sober handful that remain, but their flashy trombones sound out a truly awesome end to a long, eclectic, sometimes chaotic, always interesting evening.

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