Generally speaking, most recording artists fall into one of two categories: recording act or live act. Obviously, most working musicians make records and perform live, but the difference is most are in their element either in the studio or on stage. Young local vaudevillian rock act Dirty Bourbon River Show’s Volume One shows their identity as a live act with a record that offers a taste of their live performance.
Aside from the crisp performances and ample, open-ended jamming found on the disc, the main argument for this is that Dirty Bourbon River Show—living up to its name—lays out as if it were a dark, twisted variety show. The album’s opener, “Anything Goes Tonight,” announces the beginning of the show with the lines “Don’t look ahead, just go / to the Dirty Bourbon River Show,” with the track’s circus-like barrage of sound serving as entrance music for the band’s magical mystery tour of whiskey-soaked French Quarter back alleys.
“Anything Goes Tonight,” like the opening of any good show, also gives the audience an idea of what’s in store for them, showing the disparate genres at play by jumping from Gogol Bordello-style punk polka to psychedelia to jazz and back again. The album-as-variety-show format allows DBRS to get away with such genre-jumping, especially with the prominent Eastern European circus music influence giving an impression of a traveling gypsy troupe rather than a young rock band. The album’s final song, “Chromatic Circus Fantasy,” even quotes Julius Fucik’s “Grande Marche Chromatique,” a piece of music typically associated with circus music. The drifting band proves DBRS to be a live act in the carnival sense, with the impression that the tents are rolled up and shipped to the next stop not long after the final notes ring out. Given Volume One’s fresh sound and heartfelt performances, it will be a welcome sight when Dirty Bourbon River Show’s circus returns.