Every art form needs to be able to laugh at itself, and The Cleverlys, from the deep Ozark hollows of Cane Spur, Arkansas, do so on their latest album, Blue, available now from Mountain Home Music Company.
The Cleverlys apply their own Bluegrass treatment to songs like like Beyonce’s ‘Irreplaceable,’ LMFAO’s ‘Party Rock Anthem,’ Justin Bieber’s ‘Baby’ and The Zombies’ ‘She’s Not (Ain’t) There,’ creating music that would be at the edge of being full camp if it weren’t for the obvious vocal talent and stellar picking that holds up to any of today’s progressive acoustic bands.
The group brings the comedy it’s been hailed for in national touring to this new recording. The five-piece includes vocalist and guitarist Dr. Digger Cleverly, the band patriarch who often refers to the outfit as the Cleverly Trio; Ricky Lloyd Cleverly on bass and vocals; DVD Cleverly on banjo and vocals; Cub Cleverly on mandolin and vocals; and Sock Cleverly on fiddle and vocals.
Digger says, “I believe young folks, older folks, thicket thugs, librarians, college students, truck drivers, spam eaters, crop dusters, county fairs to livermush festivals, eyelash studios to tattoo parlors, mail carriers to body wax unions, Champaign to Pabst Blue Ribbon, will get something out of this project.”
The lead-off track, ‘Baby’, is a cover of the Justin Bieber hit, but with The Cleverlys’ Bluegrass treatment, it sounds like Flatt and Scruggs could’ve written and recorded it. Then, the album travels through a land of whimsy and impressive musicianship and vocal performances that alternate between Digger in full Ozark-voicing on ‘Milkshake’ and ‘Blue’ to a more sincere approach on the classic Seldom Scene song ‘Wait A Minute’.
“We wanted to give the Cleverheads a reprieve from all the craziness on this record while paying tribute to one of the silkiest, smoothest bands of all time”, says Digger.
With the appropriate treatment of each song, the additions and augmentations to lyrics bring out the tongue-in-cheek irony. Their version of the Zombies classic ‘She’s Not There’ changes the vernacular to ‘she ain’t there,’ an apt illustration of the band’s characteristic style. From songs that seem to be reworked into a Bluegrass/Pop-Country fusion like ‘What’s Up,’ to acoustic treatments of songs like ‘Party Rock Anthem’ that stay true to the hits’ original arrangements, The Cleverlys walk an ingenious line between parody and synthesis.
Blue offers something for everyone with a sense of humour. Pulling from several decades of music it also hints at what fans can expect from live performances. ‘I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)’, The Proclaimers hit, rounds out the album as it is followed by the Ralph Stanley classic ‘Oh Death’, made popular by the movie Oh Brother Where Art Thou. The Cleverlys give it a Hip-Hop treatment using a drum machine and auto-tune vocals by Ricky Lloyd Cleverly. “Plain and simple, it’s a tribute to two of the biggest influences on our music, T-Pain and Dr. Ralph Stanley”, says Digger.
Make no mistake, Blue is as phenomenal as it is clever Pop-Bluegrass fusion.
The Cleverlys are a one-of-a-kind comedy/music blend coming from the remote part of the Ozark Mountains, near Cane Spur, Arkansas. Digger Cleverly, along with his nephews Ricky Lloyd, Sock, DVD and Cub, make up this 5 piece trio. They have traveled the globe, if the globe only consisted of the United States, performing at music venues and some of the nation’s largest festivals like Stagecoach, Telluride, CMA Music Fest and even the Grand Ole Opry. Don’t be fooled by this faux-family band – they are all accomplished musicians putting their unique bluegrass spin on cover songs from any genre. The Cleverlys’ set list includes genius arrangements of tunes. Rolling Stone Magazine says Digger’s “out-of-date eyeglasses are as thick as his hillbilly accent, but whose comic sensibilities are a hilariously off-kilter hybrid of Homer & Jethro and The Office.”
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‘Baby’ – live: