Dagobert's Revenge

The Spectral Light and Moonshine Firefly Snakeoil Jamboree

Scarecrow Stuffing

Any music that includes a dulcimer, a banjo and a squeezebox is a favorite here at Dagobert’s Revenge, and Scarecrow Stuffing by The Spectral Light and Moonshine Firefly Snakeoil Jamboree is no exception. This band from Glenville, PA was formed by lead singer and banjo player Timothy Renner, who forsakes the more plebeian “Bluegrass” style of banjoing for an older, “rawer” style known as “Clawhammer.” The music consists mostly of traditional hillbilly ballads from the American South and the British Isles, dark, haunted songs about murder, ghosts, wolves, monsters, God, the Devil, and spry young girls, with a few originals by Renner centering on the same themes. It is as gruesome as it is beautiful. The album contains a great version of “Tom Dula”, that disturbing saga of the murder of Ol’ Laurie Foster, made famous by the Kingston Trio in the form of “Tom Dooley.” They also do an enjoyable version of “Cold Rain and Snow”, which most of us had ruined for us by the Grateful Dead. Renner’s original “Song of the Scarecrow” is a sad, desolate personal testimony of a straw man who watches and waits as the world lives and dies, walking at night through the corn and wheat, singing songs that nobody hears. Renner’s “Path of Nails” is another mournful song of the down-trodden and world-weary, a man forced to walk a perilous trail who would “rather walk on with the dead” than return to the land of the living. “A Conversation with Death”, is another one that sticks in the mind, especially the chorus, “O, Death, O, Death, can’t you spare me over for another year?” I can just imagine the Children of the Corn caroling that as they come for you all in unison. “The Bone Collector”, is another scary one, even more so because of the recent horror flick of the same name. “The Bone Collector sees, The Bone Collector knows, The Bone Collector walks alone.” Makes you want to stay away from small towns in the middle of Pennsylvania. Along the same lines is “Little Margaret”, about the ghost of a young girl who seduces a newly-married man, killing him with a kiss from her “corpsey lips.” Then there’s “The House Carpenter”, which, Renner claims, “was often sung by women in Pennsylvania”, and tells of a rich man who steals away a carpenter’s wife, taking her off to Italy, only to die with her three days later in a shipwreck. On this record I’ve counted 4 ghosts, 3 murders, 2 tragic deaths and 4 men on the road to death, an unusually high ratio. The Spectral Light and Moonshine Firefly Snakeoil Jamboree has definitely earned the self-applied label “Gothic Appalachian.”

Now one of the most interesting originals on this album is “Black Horse Ride”, which I have interpreted as a description of Parcival’s Divine Horse Ride on his Quest for the Holy Grail. The song mentions a “black sun” shining down his back, a “black moon” shining on his path, a black snake coiling in his veins, a red thorn dipped in blood, a red hawk, a red morning sky, a “beast at the edge of the woods”, and the character in question states that “I don’t know if this road leads to Heaven or Hell.” These are all elements of the story of Parcival, a fool sent on a quest for a holy treasure that is beyond Good and Evil (Heaven and Hell), who is himself the product of the Biblical bloodline of Cain (“a black snake coiling in my veins.”) As Parcival rides on his black horse in the pursuit of the Holy Grail, he is assailed with visions of the things mentioned above, the black sun, the red thorn dipped in blood, the beast at the edge of the woods, etc. Yet if it is still not perfectly clear what this song is about, there is one line that gives it away with these words: “With all of his holy books and holy grails, the holiest of men still fails.” This is true to the story, for Parcival did fail in his quest according to most versions. Of course I don’t know what Timothy Renner would say to my interpretation of his song, but I prefer to leave the question unanswered. I prefer to think that this makes The Spectral Light and Moonshine Firefly Snakeoil Jamboree somehow related to the themes of Dagobert’s Revenge, if only remotely. And as the Editor of Dagobert’s Revenge, I recommend this CD to you with all the power invested in me.

Dark Holler
P.O. Box 131
Glenville, PA 17329

E-mail: Spectrallight@hotmail.com

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