"Interesting" used to mean good, as in "I liked that book. It was interesting." Modern vernacular has made the adjective a safe way to get out from under something youd rather not be honest about. For example, "How did you like that movie I recommended?" It was, ahem, "interesting."
Which brings us to "Burn Witch Burn." Its an interesting debut release. In this case, though, its interesting in both a good and, well, interesting way.
When Rodney Linderman of the cult-punk group The Dead Milkmen decided to form a new band, he figured, in his own words, "why not be truly derivative and go back to the 1700s?" That resulted in a mix of punk, roots-rock, and Celtic music which features some incredible musicianship accompanied by an interesting vocal approach.
Musically, the idea works. Mandolin, bouzouki, violin, guitar and tin whistle are backed by bass and drums, giving a hard beat to primarily Celtic instruments.
There is some wonderful mandolin playing. Rod Piekarski and Bill Fergusson pull the sad tones out of the mando that only fine Celtic music can. And the songs are an interesting (in a good way) range of topics from the Black Dahila murder ("How Beth Found Fame") to a tune about a sea monster ("The Faragut Light"). Burn Witch Burn also tackles the Rolling Stones "Citadel" and has much better success than Britney Spears did on her cover. (Yes, I know thats not saying much, but the version here is quite good).
Ironically, the only thing that detracts from the album is band leader Lindermans interesting voice. Its all nasal and attitude, which worked great fronting a punk ensemble. Here, it distracts from an otherwise fine Celtic-influenced band.
Vienna Linderman, however, shares about half the lead vocals. Her haunting voice is a perfect fit, particularly when it wraps itself around the lyrics of "Arkansas," "They say this life is a terrible thing./ Thats why we never hear the angels sing." If Rodney Linderman just stuck to the tin whistle, recorder and hurdy-gurdy, this would album would be a classic.
Still "Burn Witch Burn" will please Dead Milkmen fans whove been wondering what Rodney Linderman has been up to. Celtic and roots-rock fans will both appreciate the mix of musical genres. And I give these folks extra points for naming their band after an old exploitation movie about witches, and not mentioning The Blair Witch, Sabrina, or Samantha Stevens.Michael Gaither