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The first time I played Rosebud •Bullets on my home-office stereo, it induced a flurry of notes from Basil, my husband’s red-rumped parakeet. Maybe this isn’t remarkable: The bird is set off by certain timbres, generally those of electronic trilling or water running. So it’s phones, showers, and Myshkin’s Ruby Warblers for Basil. Hard to say whether it’s Myshkin’s ululating voice or the guitars, piano, and drums rushing beneath her pagan/mystical lyrics like a carriage whisking runaway witches away from the bonfire, but I, too, am taken with the sound of the band, despite having been primed to hate it. Basically, (1) one-named vocalists set off my Pretens-O-Meter; (2) one of the singer-guitarist’s other projects, the Django-wronghearted Road Dog Divas, nearly caused me to fling my hummus at the Iota stage when I was last subjected to it; and (3) the band’s press kit is overwritten even by music-biz standards: “born january 2001 in new orleans, Myshkin’s Ruby Warblers are inventing gypsy-torch-punk. pulling on jazz, latin, klezmer, mountain, delta, desert and rock and roll like taffy. chasing beauty, out to prove it’s all one music. on nobody’s corporate leash.” Somehow, though, the Warblers do succeed in making it all one music. The combo (which here also includes pianist Christopher Trapan, fiddle-player Neti Vaan, clarinetist Ben Schenck, bassist John Lutz, and drummer Scott Magee, as well as the Divas’ Laura Freeman on harmonica) throws itself wholly into the rollicking stomp of “King of Kankakee,” the earnest blues-folk of “Cory Jo,” the dissonance-drenched arrhythmia of “Happy Hollow,” and everything else in the span of Rosebud •Bullets’ 47 minutes. There’s no preciousness, no pretense, just words and music that create arresting visual imagery and occasionally stir the feet to dance. “Flowery cross on the roadside bend/Big wind gonna take it away…/Black Angus in the pasture running faster than you can catch her/On your daddy’s famous Arabian,” sings Myshkin on “Big Wind,” amid a musical setting that changes from pastoral C&W to apocalyptic antifolk in the space of a minute and a half. From that track’s shimmering, liquid string-play to the actual birdsong that opens the jazzy “Bluebird,” it’s a safe bet that Rosebud •Bullets will have Basil warbling along for a long time to come.
Pamela Murray Winters