Number of Discs: 1
Release Date: January 19, 2014
Format: Audio CD
Label: Aztec Music
For a sweet trip down memory lane, when jug bands could sing about “dreaming of a reefer five foot long” (‘If You’se a Viper’) look no further than this superb reissue of Wangaratta Wahine by Captain Matchbox Whoopee Band. Originally issued on vinyl back in 1974, Wangaratta Wahine was a big seller, hitting #4 on the Australian charts and making the band a major attraction.
As one of the most unusual aggregations ever assembled in Australia, Captain Matchbox Whoopee Band played jug band blues, folk-jazz and gypsy swing enlivened with sideshow entertainment and vaudeville lunacy. Even in the 1970s it was music of a by-gone era (the 1930s) yet in the hands of lead singer / washboard player Mic Conway and his eccentric crew it was vibrant and addictive, outrageously entertaining, left-field and right-on...
At a time when other bands were obsessed with the blues and prog-rock, Captain Matchbox took their inspiration from Fats Waller, Jelly Roll Morton and the Memphis Jug Band. The group’s irreverent, counter-cultural style was almost unclassifiable in some ways because they traversed the folk, jazz and rock scenes without having to be loyal to any particular one. They could appear at rock venues (such as the notorious TF Much Ballroom and the Reefer Cabaret), outdoor festivals (Sunbury), jazz clubs and folk nights with the response always positive.
The prime cut remains the fondly remembered title track: witty, playful and utterly unforgettable, there’s nothing else like it in the whole history of Aussie rock music. While Skyhooks sang about the “Lygon Street Limbo” and making dope deals in Toorak and the Dingoes went “Way out west where the rain don’t fall” here was Captain Matchbox singing about getting stoned in a roadhouse restaurant along the Hume Highway. Sheer genius!
Wangaratta Wahine retains a quirky, appealing freshness to this day, full of yodelling vocals, gypsy violin, honky tonk piano, rattling percussion, bluesy harmonica, kazoo solos and a large dash of ocker humour – all up just a barrelful of kooky fun.
Beautifully re-mastered sound by the ever-reliable Gil Matthews, the audio quality is indeed impressive with sonic dynamics that reveal the full spectrum of sound on offer, authentically restored cover art by Leunig and packaged in a Deluxe 6 panel digi-pak, featuring a 24 page booklet with with rare photos and liner notes (including fresh interview with Mic Conway) by noted Australian Rock author Ian McFarlane.