Review: Da Elliot Bros. do jug band with flair

"O da woods is alive, wit da sauna music." That's the litmus test, right there. If the pun isn't quite clear, think of Julie Andrews, dressed as an Austrian fraulein running through a field in the Alps. That's right -- it's sung to "The Sound of ...

"O da woods is alive, wit da sauna music."

  That's the litmus test, right there. If the pun isn't quite clear, think of Julie Andrews, dressed as an Austrian fraulein running through a field in the Alps.

That's right -- it's sung to "The Sound of Music," with an exaggerated "Nortland" accent.

"Sauna Music" is the title track for the latest disc from Da Elliot Bros., a local jug band known for such CDs as "Yooper Girls" and "I Like It in Duluth."

Those first couple of lines -- the very first thing you hear on the CD -- are the closest it gets to Rodgers and Hammerstein, but it's all the taste you need to decide whether you want to go on with the disc. If it tickles your funny bone or at least sounds promising, you're going to be fine. If not, well, go back to Clear Channel.


This is washtub basses, banjos, button boxes and washboards galore, along with a few more common instruments. The singing and sometimes the playing sometimes veer off key. An occasional wrong note or a vocalist laughing at the jokes in the lyrics are all part of the charm.

Some of the singers have big Finnish accents. One sounds like the Dale character on the FOX show "King of the Hill."

To say this group and the CD have personality would be an understatement.

If you're not familiar with Da Elliot Bros., the lineup in and of itself is interesting. It's made up of people known for their music and others known more for their visual arts work. Here are the names: Elliot Silberman, Dave Lynas, Karin Kraemer, Tom Hollenhorst, Dennis Hansen, Stephanie Hansen, Bruce Peura, Ted Gay, Jill Fisher, Bill Taylor, Janet Blixt, David Morton and Doug Fairchild.

The lyrics on the original songs -- about half of them -- are filled with inside jokes, local references and familiar names. In that opening song you get references to Angora, Duluth, North Shore coffee houses, the Boundary Waters and an area potter.

There's a distinct culture reflected in this. I can't by any stretch claim to be privvy to all of it, but I do love it and wholeheartedly approve. A CD like this is a perfect antidote to the mass produced music coming through the radio in an era when many stations barely have anybody local associated with them. Somehow I don't think Britney is going to be singing about the mosquitoes in Ely anytime soon.

Ironically, one of the places that character really shows is in a cover tune on this disc. In the second-to-last track, the band takes on "Gone Fishin'" -- actually renamed "Gone Finshin'." But over more than 5 minutes of music, it turns into a conversation between a couple of guys on the merits to being married, particularly as it relates to getting out on the lake. Like "Sauna Music," it will get more than a chuckle if you're into that kind of thing.

Through the whole CD, a certain "lighten up" mindset plays through. It comes through the lyrics, but even the instrumentation bears it out. They will get there when they get there, and a few mistakes aren't going to get in the way. There's something kind of infectious about it.


In Morton's song, "Killing You By Degrees," we learn that the air we breathe, the food we eat and the water we drink are, you guessed it, killing us by degrees. So stop worrying.

Dave Lynas' spoken-word piece "You Can't Do That" is a lament about everything from housing inspectors to terrorists to political correctness stifling every live impulse a person might have -- and to heck with that.

"Gone Fishin'" and "Sauna Music" you can figure out for yourself.

Da Elliot Bros. also puts out a handful of traditional songs, and some of them are fun. I particularly liked "Ain't Going to Rain No More." "So Glad I'm Here" is great, too, kind of a spiritual.

There's also the obligatory Woody Guthrie cover, "Will You Miss Me."

As I said, it's not for everyone. My wife could stand about five minutes worth of this CD. But it's definitely for some of us. Me, the dog and the three-month-old daughter all seemed to get along fine.

A CD release party for "Sauna Music" is set for Saturday, Nov. 29, from 8 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. at Amazing Grace. I'm betting Da Elliot Bros. are even more fun live.

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