Jeremiah Tall: Don't Sell Him Short!

Randm Records
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Jeremiah Tall hails from Bucks County, Pennsylvania, which is located within the Philadelphia/Camden, NJ/Wilmington, DE metropolitan area. That said, he's a self-described mountain man and he plays the part well. He's a one-man band in the spirit of Matt Lorenz (aka/Suitcase Junket), who accompanies himself on guitar, banjo, and harmonica and keeps the beat with a kick drum fashioned from an old traveling case. Whereas Lorenz is often upbeat and playful, Tall idolizes Johnny Cash and his kick drum sports a photo of John Wayne in cowboy regalia. These are perfect symbols for Tall's persona, which is a blend of outlaw and drifter. He is a burly man with bushy hair and beard who looks a bit like Jerry Garcia's lost brother. His is a powerful voice with lots of husk, growl, spit, and yalp; and his songs are about cowboys, love that may or may not be redeemable, and encounters with the Devil. In fact, Old Nick appears on three of the eight tracks of Wakin­as Tempter, Gambler, Avenger, and Threat. Tall wants us to question the assumption that salvation is a given and, in his musical universe, the border between heaven and hell is gossamer thin. Encounters with the Devil at the crossroads are, of course, a folk music/folklore staple, but Tall does some interesting things with old tropes. In "The Devil and David," for example, he re-imagines the Old Testament story. In the Bible, David's first son dies after David commits adultery with Bathsheba; in Tall's tale, David beats the Devil in cards and reclaims his son—though he foolishly forgets to bargain for his own soul. In like fashion, the bluesy bass-note-heavy "Revelation (The Final Book)" is also a vengeance song, but this time a preacher reminds that it's God who is angry and "hell will follow in his wrath." And what's a badass album without a song about railroads? His "Train" is a thunderous guitar/harmonica/kick drum/vocal storm in which he implores a woman to "get back on that train" to return home to the man she left. By contrast, "Coal Mine March" is claps, stomps, and a capella vocals—as sparse and spare as a denuded hillside. Jeremiah Tall–don't sell him short.  Rob Weir    

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