Have you any idea how difficult it is to find a good picture of an old man and a table saw? This is a little smaller than I’d like but it’s the best I could find on the whole of the Internet. I suppose there aren’t that many master craftsmen around these days. Carpentry has become a job for machines; joiners seem to be a dying breed. On the other hand, increasingly sophisticated tools have enabled many more people to try their hands at making things. All sorts of things. In the past you might have been a blacksmith, a farrier or a boot maker. Nowadays we can all be a Jack (or Jill) of All Trades.
I should give credit to Proglodytes for this track-of-the-week. That’s where Thomas Hatton published an interview with one Damon Waitkus who, I discovered, is the leader of the band known as Jack O’ the Clock. JOtC makes music in a genre that’s as rare as the woodworkers who still prefer hand tools. I think of it as a cross between Jethro Tull’s progressive folk and Laurie Anderson’s avant garde art rock. I am reminded, though, of The Cauld Blast Orchestra (see this post, for example) because both those bands use a highly unusual selection of instruments. How many rock bands do you know that feature a bassoon as a lead instrument?
Here’s a live version of a track from JOtC’s 2016 album, Repetitions of the Old City I. The picture jumps a bit in places as if the camera is being jogged by a tapping foot but it gives a good idea of what this band is all about.
That’s Damon Waitkus on the hammer dulcimer and vocals, Emily Packard on violin, Kate McLoughlin on bassoon and vocals, Jason Hoopes on bass guitar and Jordan Glen on the drums.
The Crotchety First Listen Committee was impressed with the composition and with the blend of tones and textures. The lyrics read like the first chapter of a fairy tale, setting a mysterious scene and inviting us to guess how the story will unfold. The ferocious blade of the table saw is spinning; Jack O’ the Clock is building something awesome down in the cellar.
The whole of the Repetitions of the Old City I album sparkles as the story develops, without ever coming to a definite conclusion as far as I can see. But no matter; this work can be enjoyed without paying too much attention to the words.
Jack O’ the Clock released their latest album, Leaving California, on 28th May this year. Having listened to the four tracks available for streaming on Bandcamp the consensus at Crotchety Mansions is that it doesn’t live up to the promise of the grinning old man and his table saw, but here’s the promotional video of the first track. See what you think.
There’s more on the Bandcamp page for the album.