Pazz & Jop 2011 – 39th Annual Village Voice Critics’ Poll

Pazz & Jop 2011
39th Annual Village Voice Critics’ Poll

“Pazz & Jop is an annual poll of musical releases compiled by American newspaper The Village Voice. The poll is tabulated from the submitted year-end top ten lists of hundreds of music critics. Pazz & Jop was introduced by The Village Voice in 1974 as an album-only poll, but was expanded to include votes for singles in 1979.”


Rum Drum Ramblers

Ramblin’ Men
By Jaime Lees
Published on January 12, 2009 at 2:43pm

It’s a packed Tuesday night at BB’s Jazz, Blues and Soups, and the crowd doesn’t pay much attention when three young gentlemen wearing dapper hats and sharp trousers take the stage. But less than a minute into the trio’s set, most of the room is captivated. Two of the men share singing duties, exploring the deep, pained voices of the blues. Occasional hootenanny-style off-microphone hollering energizes the audience, as does a mournful, wailing harmonica.

A previously unmoved patron with a gentle face like fine, worn leather cracks a smile. He releases an exhilarated “Hot damn!” and commences tapping his toes and beating out rhythms on his polyester-covered thigh. The Rum Drum Ramblers have won over a new fan — an increasingly familiar occurrence to anyone who’s seen the group live since it started playing together in 2007.

To the uninitiated, the Ramblers might seem like an atypical blues band. The group features three young white kids in their early twenties, all of whom have roots in the punk scene. (Their previous groups include the Vultures and Nineteen.) But guitarist Mat Wilson, bassist Joey Glynn and harmonica player Ryan Koenig are no dilettantes, and they often look to their DIY roots for guidance. The group averaged three performances a week in 2008 and will perform anywhere; favorite haunts include pizza joints, rock clubs and even street corners. As Wilson explains, “The variety of places we played this year was just ridiculous. We’ve taken so many random gigs. You have no clue — I have no clue where we’ll pop up.”

And invites aren’t even necessary — sometimes, the band will just host its own damn party. The Ramblers’ label, St. Louis’ own Big Muddy Records, threw one hell of a hoedown this summer at a pavilion in Tower Grove Park. Lit by the moon and mountains of tiny tea candles, a couple hundred revelers passed bottles of hooch, shook their tail feathers and reclined on quilts in the grass. The trio’s set was acoustic but powerful, spreading energy and good vibes out into the warm, dark night.

That spirit lives on in the band’s debut recording, Hey Lordy Mama Mama Get Up and Go. It’s an electric, lively EP that sounds polished — but still preserves the rawness and passion of its shows. In between sets at BB’s, we caught up with Mat Wilson and Ryan Koenig and discussed what makes the Rum Drum Ramblers tick.

B-sides: Tell me about why you chose to play all of the different places you played last year.

Ryan Koenig: If you just play the same club every week, you just get the same crowd. When we play BB’s we draw the blues people. When we play the Blues City Deli, we draw from that neighborhood. When we play CBGB, we draw all the punk rock[ers] and the young community that hangs out on South Grand.

Mat Wilson: As a blues band, we can drag some shit out and entertain people for four hours, or we can step in CBGB and play 30 minutes of material and kill it. We can also play an electric set or an acoustic set, or a set with horns and a drummer or without it, or with guest players. The fact that we can do anything like that at a show makes it fresh.

What do you guys think you sound like? What’s your inspiration?

Wilson: I would say, like…I’m pulling from pre-war Chicago blues. Like, the first electric blues.

Koenig: I’m into a lot of the country blues and just country in general. But then I also like a lot of the Chicago stuff and the New Orleans stuff. I tell people it’s just American music.

Wilson: Yeah, American music. I like it when people call us Americana more than blues ’cause it’s not like we’re… hoochie-coochie men. [Laughs] Our thing is getting as much variety as possible and not just sticking to clubs in the blues scene. Because I’ve seen enough of it, and we can totally do it with a punk-rock ethic and kind of be troubadours with what we’re doing. We don’t need the blues society to book a blues show. We can bring a blues show any fuckin’ place we set up and play.

What music do you have in common that you all love?

Wilson: Jimmy Reed. Otis Rush. Magic fuckin’ Sam. A lot of that more obscure Chicago blues. Bo Diddley. Mississippi Sheiks, big time.

Koenig: Also, our same tastes include the Clash and the Damned, Johnny Thunders and the Circle Jerks.

Wilson: Punk rock definitely came first for me, but it wasn’t until I picked up a Muddy Waters record and John Lee Hooker record until I realized those dudes were punk as fuck. And I didn’t think that because I wanted everything to be punk rock, but because I recognized an intensity that was there.

Koenig: One thing I think modern rock lacks is intensity. I think the way to bring the intensity back to live music and to clubs is to be playing stuff that’s not just what’s out there now. To show people that it’s still alive, I guess.

Wilson: I think that blues is definitely the original struggle music, just as I saw punk rock when I got into it. Now we’re going through historical times just as they were then. So if you hear some new material that reflects on what’s going on now, it might be interesting. We know that blues didn’t die. Punk rock didn’t die.

2008: My Favorites

TV Blinded Me With Science

My favorite major release of 2008 was TV on the Radio’s Dear Science. Holy crap, was I unprepared to deal with the magnetic, schizophrenic brilliance of that album. I tried to listen casually — you know, in the car, while doing the dishes, etc. — but I soon found myself up late at night, incapacitated by the weight of big-ass headphones, wide-eyed in wonderment and smiling in the dark.

After bumping hip-hop newcomer Kid Sister’s tune “Beeper” on the daily, I spent an unprecedented amount of time — and a sickening level of ass-kissing — trying to scam an advance copy of her debut LP, Dream Date, from better-connected industry friends. Though it won’t be released until March 2009, Kid Sister’s playful, fly girl charisma permeates every song on the debut, and this hip-hop cutie has the skills to back up her Next Big Thing hype.

There were some hot reissues this year, including R.E.M.’s Murmur, Verbena’s Souls for Sale, A.A. Bondy’s American Hearts and the remastered Replacements discography. All were greatly appreciated — and rocked accordingly.

The best concert I saw in town was Sharon Jones at Blueberry Hill’s Duck Room in January. I knew she would be good, but I had no idea how good. The sold-out, sticky, sweaty, shoes-off, swinging hair, soul-filled basement show had me jumpin’ and forced my booty to do things heretofore unthinkable. Hallelujah.

Locally, I still crush on Bunnygrunt, the Humanoids, Sex Robots, Rum Drum Ramblers and Pokey LaFarge. I’ve seen each about 27,856 times this year and I’m still amazed at the spirit and passion their performances ignite. In addition, I can’t say enough good things about the Livers. This extraordinary rock duo is relatively new, but it consistently churns out one of the most exceptional live acts in the city.
— Jaime Lees

[“the RFT’s music writers weighed in on what they liked this year” – HERE]

RFT Music Awards Nominees

RFT Music Awards Nominees: St. Louis’ Best and Brightest
Published on May 28, 2008

Please follow this link to read about the nominees listed below.

Best Americana/Folk – Rum Drum Ramblers
Best Untraditional Americana/Folk – Rats & People
Best Funk/Soul/R&B – Kim Massie
Best Hard Rock/Metal – Head On Collision
Best Local Release (self-released) –
Rats & People’s The City of Passersby
Best New Artist – The Livers + Wooden Kites
Best Pop Band – Sex Robots
Best Punk/Hardcore – The Humanoids