M Shanghai String Band: The Mapmaker’s Daughter

Fiddles and banjos in Brooklyn? Well, yes, apparently – as that’s the M Shanghai String Band’s home turf, no matter how much they sound like they hail from some backwoods holler south of the Mason-Dixon line. The freewheeling collective, which takes its name from the Chinese restaurant where they first performed together, returns here with its third disc of rootsy tunes, dominated – as you might imagine – by the various stringed things its 11 members play. The titles are often cooler than the songs themselves (particularly “Angel Full of Bourbon,” which, let’s face it, is a title most songs could never live up to), but even if the band’s material isn’t outstanding, it’s good enough to do set a suitably back-porch mood – and Mapmaker’s best moments, like the sawdust-covered stomp “Gallows Bird,” sound like they were distilled in a greasy mason jar just a couple shelves down from Americana standard-bearers like Ollabelle and the Felice Brothers. If it isn’t quite as high-proofed a vintage as either of those other bands, it still packs enough of a punch that it should be able to take the edge off for discerning fans of the genre – and prove a sufficiently intriguing invitation to one of the M Shanghai String Band’s tremendously entertaining live shows. (Red Parlor 2009)

M Shanghai String Band MySpace page


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