The English language has some very captivating words. A friend of mine likes “shenanigans”. I’ve always been partial to “gobsmacked”. Then there’s “hootenanny”. If you’re not familiar with the term, it’s sort of like open mic night at the square dance. Think string bands and dancing; raw, fast-paced, and open to anyone. That’s the spirit that inhabits the newest record from Dallas-area band, The Bodarks. Entitled Side Effects, it’s basically a hootenanny in a cardboard sleeve.
The album’s tone is firmly set with The Fiddler’s Bride. Set in some unknown beleaguered town in central Texas, it flavors a barn dance number with an Eastern European flair that’s common in the region. Long Gone Suzie is a more traditional bluegrass tune, as is Wishing Well that features the band’s vocal harmonies. Any open mic night is going to have some good covers. So the band does an indie folk version of Alice In Chain’s Rooster, a bluegrass version of Mary Jane’s Last Dance, and true genre-twisting cover of Aerosmith’s Sweet Emotion.
The band really hits its stride when it strays a little farther from the dance floor. The title track takes a look at all the issues if you’re addicted to music. Won’t Stop Til I’m Dead is a jazzy take on a jug band song about willpower. Down & Out In WF slows things down in a not-so-loving observation of life in far north Texas. Movin’ Man also has an almost-lazy beat and a fun banjo/bongos/whistling outro-vamp.
If you’re not paying attention you might dismiss Side Effects as a gimmicky take on traditional folk music. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Peel back that cellophane wrapper and underneath is a band that’s using its talents to have fun while exploring a pretty broad swath of Americana. All you have to do is step away from your Zoom meeting and you can take that journey with them.
About the author: I've actually driven from Tehatchapee to Tonopah. And I've seen Dallas from a DC-9 at night.