According to The Mighty Manatees Wikipedia page, "Medicine Show" is their 17th album since 1988. That's counting the cassette-only releases and all of the live recordings.
Stylistically, the Manatees can expertly switch between reggae, country, folk and rock. On this collection of Will Hodgson songs, they even dish a dollop of jazz! They channel The Grateful Dead throughout the album. The opening track "My, My, My" is like something out of -- yesireebob -- Robert Hunter's lyric book:
"Free to play on Mothers Day/on a Sunday afternoon
We while away the month of May/leaving it too soon
Grooving through the universe/living a life of songSearching for another verse/that we could sing along."
They get their Bob Marley on with "Yellow Sun, Yellow Moon" -- with a singalong-friendly "hey, hey, hey/what I say" refrain -- and a reggae re-telling of a Gospel parable in "Samaritan's Day." Hodgson turns into the protest storyteller-wordsmith Bob Dylan circa 1962-63 in "Ballad of Leonard Peltier." The song makes you want to look up the story of the incarcerated Native-American activist, and wonder what really went down June 26, 1975.
The Manatees are known for being a fluid musical cooperative that can be as small as an acoustic duo or as large as a 10-piece orchestra. Adding to that mythos is an arsenal of guest musicians on "Medicine Show." The female blues/gospel lead vocal on "I'm On My Way" is a standout moment. Also noticeably augmenting the Manatees' core band are the album's producer, Jason Crosby, on violin, marimba and xylophone; Walter Tates Jr. on saxophone; Brian Herder on pedal steel and dobro; and Chris DelSordo on flute. There are sone tasty solos on "Medicine Show," gutiar and organ in particular.
Hogdson turns a few attention-grabbing lyrical phrases. "Gonna do it for the money" from "Fast Money" seems out of character for the hippie Manatees ethos. In that song, he also sings:
"She's smoking a pack and a half a day
And after the first shot/the shaking will stop
And that's when all the night was over/and everybody was gone
She sat alone
The winter came too soon."
"It doesn't matter whatever they say
They sure do change their minds after Election Day ..."
"So many futures being bought and sold (which has a double meaning that could be a reference to stock futures) ..."
"I read the papers/and I watch the news
But I don't believe that they're entirely true ... do you?"
Listen to the tracks from "Medicine Show."
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The Reporter 307 Derstine Ave. Lansdale, PA 19446.