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The Groanbox Boys - 6 September 2008

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Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? - on 6th September - this was the one place to be !! - Another sell-out show as per their gig here last year, and we were delighted to welcome them back. This time around they were joined by Paul Clifford on percussion.

A wonderful evening - Their music is steeped in the 1920s and 30s, and played like the old greats with the peculiar mixture of sex and God to match. Seznec and Ward-Bergeman play their own unique brand of foot-stompin', sweat-drippin-from-the-ceiling, old time American blues, folk, rags, and mountain songs on accordion, acoustic guitar, gourd banjo, open-backed banjo, piano, harmonica, and shackles.

The Independent devoted a full-page article to them in April 2007 - which you can read here:

On stage, Cory Seznec and Michael Ward-Bergeman - the American duo who make up the Groanbox Boys - make far more music then two fellows playing acoustic instruments have a right to. The engine room of the band is Ward-Bergeman's modified "hyperaccordian", an instrument he cradles like a bear protecting its cub. He begins by laying down a bass rhythm with his left hand that resonates to your gut. Then, with his right, he gets to work on the melody, hammering out a bluesy riff. Laid over the top is the sound of Seznec's fretless gourd banjo; its mellow stream of notes providing a driving counterpoint to the accordian.

Then there's the percussion. Tied around Ward-Bergeman's right shin is piece of cloth covered in small bells (which he calls "shackles") that rattle like a tambourine when he brings his foot down hard on the beat. The overall effect is confusing at first - but soon becomes utterly enthralling. This is music that goes deep into the roots of popular music. Mixed in here is West African Griot songs, Deep South blues, Nashville harmonies, Eastern European gypsy dances...

The background of Seznec, 26, is in pre-war American blues and ragtime guitar, plus Appalachian mountain music. But there is also a strong country flavour to the Groanbox Boys, especially in their singing. "A huge influence of ours is the Delmore Brothers, who did the Nashville circuit in the Twenties, Thirties and Forties." says Seznec. "They had really great, tight harmonies." Ward-Bergeman concurs: "They are utterly unique. You know instantly when you hear them: 'that's the Delmore Brothers'. They had their vision."

The music is absolutely enthralling and goes deep into the roots of popular music... -The Archer, East Finchley, London, December 2007, no. 171.

Original and exuberant. American roots music by a couple of talented American guys... - Roots magazine, October 2007 no. 292.

What a revelation The Groanbox Boys proved to be last Tuesday! In my humble opinion they were one of the best acts we've had at the club in a long time.....and boy that's saying something. Several people turned their noses up when I said this was an accordion led duo.....but it simply worked.....wonderful vocal harmonies, unusual arrangements but beautifully played and a real old mix of stuff.....from almost Parisian Jazz to deep Mississippi Blues detouring to The Appalachians on the way. - John Adams, The Bottleneck Blues Club.