The Atomic Duo
Reviewed by Kevin Curtin, Fri., May 18, 2012
The Atomic DuoBroadsides
In Austin, musicians have a tendency to use folk music as a starting point. Then they get it drunk, blend it with newer styles, and make it silly or sarcastic. By contrast, the Atomic Duo plays original folk and bluegrass songs with refreshing honestly and authenticity. Sound boring? It's not. Broadsides rollicks clever and relevant, half workingman's blues and half down-home politics. On "Key Chain Blues" and "Company Man Is Not Our Friend," Bad Liver's founder Mark Rubin and Silas Lowe rage against downsizing and corporate servitude, while "New New Deal" and "Trickle Down" are angry letters to congressmen. The duo's send-up of poet Gil Scott-Heron's "Whitey on the Moon" isn't the best song on Broadsides, but it's key – because people still can't pay their doctor bills while the government blows tax money on faraway missions. Dynamics make the Atomic Duo a perfect pair; both men sing and play lead. Instrumentally, Rubin's guitar – tight and prototypical – plays the straight man to Lowe's untamed mandolin. From his prominent ragtime lead on "Scott Joplin's New Rag" to his balls-out pentatonic raking on "Innocent Man," Lowe's playing is as in-your-face as the content of the songs. Broadsides is more than a passable local release. It's true folk music that represents the concerns of common people with great songwriting, production from Lloyd Maines, and respectable performances.