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Beat Circus

“The February Train” MP3

Jul 24, 2009

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Boston multi-instrumentalist Brian Carpenter loves conflating his Southern roots with scraps of circus music, cabaret, bluegrass, old-timey folk, and funereal chants. His third release for primary musical project Beat Circus is called Boy From Black Mountain (out September 29th on Cuneiform). It's the second album in Carpenter's "Weird American Gothic" trilogy and features a cover illustration by Carson Ellis. Ellis is best known for her Decemberists covers and various children's books. Beat Circus' last album, 2008's Dreamland, was in reference to the turn-of-the-century Coney Island theme park that burned down in 1911. Along with the Beat Circus crew, Carpenter collaborated with longstanding musical compatriot Bryce Goggin (Akron/Family, Antony and the Johnsons, Bishop Allen).

Here's a first taste of Black Mountain, with this backwoods accordion, piano and string piece, "The February Train." Carpenter's voice has the air of a man on a journey of self-discovery, akin to some of the slower Pogues ballads. The lazy journalist in me would categorize this under The Decemberists or Rock Plaza Central, but Beat Circus' arrangements are more deceptive. They expand and contract with the thrum of a great Southern Gothic yarn. And when Carpenter sings "everything is true but nothing's real" it's sounds much more than a rock cliche.

As a trivia note, many of the tracks, such as "Boy From Black Mountain" and "Saturn Song" (a duet with Larkin Grimm) touch on Carpenter's experience with his autistic son. A press note reveals that other songs delve into "fathers and grandparents [and] watermelon farmers in the rural Bible Belt."

Tickets for the Boy From Black Mountain CD Release Show on September 11th at Cambridge, Massachusetts' Middle East Downstairs go on sale today at the box office or through Ticketmaster. Grimm (who shares a mic with Carpenter on the album), Reverend Glasseye, Ketman and Mucca Pazza will also be at the event. They're also playing Brooklyn's Knitting Factory the next night.