Album Review

The Suitcase Junket--- Drivin' the Piles and Then Some

The Suitcase Junket - Pile Driver

The Junket is back and he's better than ever (I told myself when mere mention of a new album made me shiver and sweat). Then I listened to it. I over-exaggerated, of course, but I was right. That's what I do when I hear music that bowls me over. Over-exaggerate. I mean, what can you do with a guy who looks like a cross between Jon Stewart and Einstein, is a one-man-band and is just one card short of a full deck? Maybe just a half a card. He has to be. First time I heard him he was singing into the hole of a guitar (I guess there wasn't a garbage can handy), making it sound like one of the coolest studio tricks in the world. The track was the opening track of 2015's Make Time album and I was dragged into a world of music I had no idea existed. The album was a roller coaster ride of styles which had no place being played by one guy (it certainly did not sound like one guy) and by the end of the album I was a staunch fan.

“There is nothing like a song starting out with a guy singing into the sound hole of an acoustic guitar,” I wrote for No Depression, “the equivalent of recording in a dorm bathroom or singing into a garbage can, to make one pay a bit more attention to the music and that is exactly what the ol' Suitcase Junket dude does in the video now playing on NPR's web page. Suitcase Junket. Seems to be a trend these days for solo artists and duos to pick a band name, band or not, though to be truthful Matt Lorenz, the Junket's real name, is a one-man band who really sounds like a band. At times, a full band. To make the sounds he relies upon (not surprisingly and according to his PR people) “a resurrected dumpster-diamond guitar, an old oversized suitcase, a hi-hat, a gas-can baby-shoe foot-drum, a cookpot-soupcan-tambourine foot-drum, a circular-saw-blade bell and a box of bones and silverware that operate much like a hi-hat. He pounds out rhythms with his feet and his twang-and-buzz guitar growls through a couple of old tube amps. On top of all this is the ethereal edge of his overtone throat-singing.” Instrument companies hate him but he gets five stars for recycling.”

Well, he (Matt Lorenz) is back and as good if not better than ever. I thought he was a bit rough on Make Time (good rough) but he breaks the sound barrier right off on his latest, Pile Driver, sounding like something out of 1990's grunge scene. I'm not really sure what instruments he is playing on “Next Act” but there is a guitar in there somewhere and probably a distorted keyboard of some kind and, yes, his usual array of percussion which makes me wonder if he has somehow grown extra arms and legs. While “Jackie” is a different depth and the sound more controlled, it is an outstanding second step and a one-two punch to perk up the old ears. “Evangeline” is a plodding but upbeat rocker (Some women just evoke tempo sometimes) and a kicker in that it segues into a long string of songs--- a little bit of this and a little bit of that. I mean, the guy can play just about anything you might want, adapted to his sound, of course.

I couldn't tell you exactly why I find The Junket so intriguing but I do. Creativity, I guess. Musicianship, for sure. Songwriting. Every time I sit through Pile Driver I wonder. Every time, though, I move. Hard to listen and not move. Head nod, butt slide, toe-tap with the occasional air guitar. He almost yodels at times, too. Hell, maybe he does. Hard to find a good yodeler these days so I'm not sure but it's close enough. 

This isn't just a gimmick, this one-man thing. As hard as it must be, he pulls it off song after song. I cannot imagine him playing a live show without melting into a pool of sweat. Might well be worth seeing him just for that alone.

Speaking of that, here is his video for “Next Act” that I mentioned before. Killer stuff, if you ask me. Note to self: I really need to catch this guy live.