"Table for One" Reviews

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Inside Bluegrass
Bluegrass Unlimited
Keith Lawrence, Messenger-Inquirer
Bluegrass World


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(Minnesota Bluegrass and Old-Time Music Association)

Middle Spunk Creek Boys:
"Table for One"

By Adam Granger
Inside Bluegrass, December 2000, Vol. 26 No. 12

In the early Seventies, when I lived in Arkansas and Nashville, I used to read in Bluegrass Unlimited about this joint called Dulono's and a band that played there called The Middle Spunk Creek Boys. When I moved up here in 1974, they were the first band I found (I went to hear them play at Hamline University). In short, The Middle Spunk Creek Boys have been around since Demosthenes was gargling rocks. Well, okay, not all of them, but I defy you to guess which ones are the originals.

Bands as venerable as the Spunks carry a huge potential for crustiness. I mean, these guys could just as easily be doing "Fox on the Run" on the Old Goat circuit; believe me, it's a constant temptation for all of us older musicians. It's particularly gratifying, then, to find that they've created an album as fine as "Table for One."

Guitarist Alan Jesperson, mandolinist Bruce Jaeger, and bassist Jerry Flynn have been Spunks forever. The addition a couple of years ago of Madison transplant Mark Kreitzer gave these three stalwarts a shot in the collective arm. Kreitzer gives The Middle Spunk Boys a new sound and feel and heralds their fourth or fifth major incarnation. That his entry into Spunkdom would shake the clubhouse rafters is inevitable, since he's a prolific songwriter and plays about three thousand instruments. As for the other three, it's as though they said, "Oh, you're gonna be that good, eh? Well, four can play this game." The result is that I've never heard any of these guys play or sing better.

The fourteen cuts on "Table for One" reflect the current Spunk's depth and breadth. Nine of the songs are Kreitzer compositions (told you he was prolific), and run the range from "He Died Alone," about his dad, to "Little Willie's Return": imagine a Child Ballad about Columbine. Be not misled, however: This album is not The Mark Kreitzer Story.

Jesperson's vocals are topnotch and his rhythm guitar playing, always great, is super this time out; Jaeger contributes a spiffy instrumental, "Spirit Island," which is the dynamic highlight of the album, and does yeoman duty on his tenor, low tenor and baritone vocal work; and Jerry Flynn surprises and inspires with his rendition of "Roll On John," which tips its hat to The Greenbriar Boys' arrangement of forty years ago before cruising gamely into Spunkland. The Spunks' vocal abilities shine and dominate throughout, in combinations from solo to four-part; standouts are He Died Alone and Over in the Glory Land.

"Table for One" has its fair share of little surprises, like the bodhran on "The Erlking," played by engineer Leo Whitebird's wife Robin, and the swell 45-second fade at the end of Kreitzer's "Luther and Angie" (Oops. Now they're not surprises anymore .... )

Finally, let's talk about "Table for One's" cover: the image of the four Spunks sitting, each alone, at tables in a restaurant seems at first parodic and invites a response of laughter, but as the irony in the image emerges, more challenging emotions are ordered up. And, the fact that the restaurant is Dulono's is just plain fun.

Congratulations, Middle Spunk Creek Boys. Your bullet-dodging and rock-gargling have paid off. You've done some serious hard work, and it shows. Great album, boys.

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December 2000
Copyright 2000 by Bluegrass Unlimited
by Les McIntyre

Okay-Dokey Records MSCB004

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the Middle Spunk Creek Boys is that they have been an active band for more than thirty years. In that time, the band has endured numerous personnel changes. The current group lineup consists of Mark Kreitzer (banjo, guitar, fiddle, and vocals), Alan Jesperson (guitar and vocals), Bruce Jaeger (mandolin and vocals) and Jerry Flynn (bass and vocals).

"Table For One" is the band's latest recording endeavor and consists mostly of band originals set in a contemporary motif. The 14 selections include "Over In The Glory Land," the James Monroe/ Jake Landers collaboration "Girl In My Dreams," and Steve Gillette's 'The Erkling."

Mark Kreitzer's "Little Willie's Return" and "He Died Alone" are topical compositions that could have been snatched right from the headlines of today's newspapers. Other prominent entries include Bruce Jaeger's instrumental "Spirit Island," along with "Luther And Angie," "Picture On The Wall," and "Right Way To Say Goodbye."

"Table For One" is a tantalizing presentation of imaginative bluegrass from a musical entourage who knows what survival is all about.

Okey-Dokey Records, 5721 39th Ave S Minneapolis MN 55417, Web <www mscb com>

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Keith Lawrence, Messenger-Inquirer

Copyright 2000 Messenger-Inquirer

Middle Spunk Creek Boys set a 'Table For One'

Bluegrass Notes
29 September 2000

The Middle Spunk Creek Boys. "Table For One." Okey-Dokey Records. 14 cuts.

This Minneapolis-area band has been playing bluegrass since 1968 -- and it shows.

"Table For One" features good picking, good harmonies and good song selection -- with a lot of original material.

Bruce Jaeger, Alan Jesperson, Mark Kreitzer and Jerry Flynn lean toward the folk side of the music. But a lot of fans today were introduced to bluegrass through the folk boom of the 1960s. And they'll feel right at home.

Kreitzer wrote nine cuts including the title song. And how much more lonesome can you get than a table for one?

His "Little Willie's Return," which tackles the issue of guns in school, warns, "If we keep teaching hate and fear, Willie's  (the kid with the gun) gonna keep comin' round here."

Kreitzer's "He Died Alone" deals with coming to grips with the death of a parent. "Luther and Angie" is about a marriage coming apart because "fairy tales don't come true." And his "Picture on the Wall" uses the imagery of an empty hook on a wall to symbolize a failed love.

Also featured are James Monroe's "Girl In My Dreams" and Ralph Stanley's spirited "Over In The Glory Land."

None of the band members will ever be nominated for male vocalist of the year. But together, they produce good music -- and good albums.

By Keith Lawrence,  Messenger-Inquirer

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November 2000

Copyright 2000 Bluegrass World Music

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The Middle Spunk Creek Boys
Table For One

1. Little Willie's Return, 2. Girl In My Dreams, 3. Our Hearts Beat In 3/4 Time, 4. He Died Alone, 5. The Erlking, 6. Tell Me Something, 7. Roll On John, 8. Spirit Island, 9.Table For One, 10. Over In The Gloryland, 11. Luther And Angie, 12. When The Roses Bloom, 13. Picture On The Wall, 14. Right Way To Say Goodbye.

Minnesota based, The Middle Spunk Creek Boys release, "Table For One" is an easy listening album of songs, mostly written by band members, with some more familiar tunes included. Somewhat folksey, but still Bluegrass, this album is well produced with clean vocals and instrumental work. Liner notes include the words to all of the songs written by the band members but not much about the band members, modest fellows I suppose. Since 1968, The Middle Spunk Creek Boys have done their part in popularizing Bluegrass music in the upper Midwest. Very smooth and professional, good listening!

N. J.B.

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