Ben Hunter and Joe Seamons refer to themselves as "songsters," a seldom-used genre sobriquet that predates "bluesman." Songsters were traveling musicians who would go from town to town playing songs for pay; any song was fair game. Songsters have been described as human jukeboxes, aptly paying tribute to their musicianship and command of wide varieties of music.
It's a good lens to view the Hunter-Seamons effort on this disc. The duo, based in the Pacific Northwest, has laid down a broad cross-section of blues, rags and mountain murder ballads.
The playing is rich, but spare. Hunter, fiddler and vocalist, carries the melodies on most cuts. Seamons, a banjoist and guitarist, lays down a solid line where needed.
"Banks of The River" demands the listener's attention, echoing a fading summer day under mangrove overhangs. "Tom Dooley," oft-recorded, gets the traditional treatment with driving banjo and fiddle counterpoints. In contrast, "Jungle Nights In Harlem" evokes the swing era (the kazoo helps). Blues numbers are well represented with "Long Tall Mama" and "Preachin' Blues" as standouts. Hunter and Seamons make the most of their two instruments, adapting them to the genres with grace and ease, brightly produced by George Rezendez.
In true songster tradition, there's something for everyone in this delightful collection.