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Album review: The Cleverlys' 'The Cleverlys'

December 12, 2011 |  4:20 pm

Album review: The Cleverlys' 'The Cleverlys'

What’s not to love about a group that staunchly believes the Top 40 would be vastly improved with the application of banjo and mandolin plucking, fiddle sawing and backwoods harmonizing?

Guitarist and frontman Digger Cleverly, a.k.a. comedian-musician Paul Harris, and his four bandmates display quick wit, not to mention top-flight instrumental and vocal chops, in re-imagining R&B and pop hits.

The Black-Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feelin’” erupts into a call-and-response session on the “Let’s do it!” refrain, which gives way to an a cappella treatment of the chorus, in which they promise “Tonight’s gonna be a good dang night.”

Yes, there’s a novelty to these bluegrass renderings of Shaggy’s “Angel,” Travie McCoy/Bruno Mars’ “Billionaire” and the song that’s become the ersatz family band’s calling card, Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It).”

But just as parodists such as Weird Al Yankovic, Big Daddy and Godfrey Daniels did before them, the Cleverlys have something subtly, but constructively, subversive at work too. The down-home drawl helps yank the pop stars’ inflated yearnings for material bling back to earth, while their instrumental support emphasizes the melodic hooks at the heart of their hits. And it’s all accomplished so, well, cleverly.

 

The Cleverlys
“The Cleverlys”
(Stabbin Cabin Records)
Three stars (Out of four)

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-- Randy Lewis

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