“No time to be blue,” grumbles the refrain to the VanDangos’ shambling “Work, Work, Work,” one of 13 bummed-out tracks on the Alexandria-based trio’s debut CD, Psycho Rodeo. (All three VanDangos are former members of the blues-rock combo Smoke N’.) The band’s rhythm-heavy folk/blues hybrid is distinguished by percussionist Hank Reuter’s African tubanos and John David Coppola’s stand-up bass. Singer, guitarist, and principal songwriter Richard Stone has a high-pitched growl and a penchant for combining the stylings and sentiments of the blues with folkish harmonies and arrangements.
The material on Psycho is all original, with the exception of Otis Blackwell’s blues strut, “Daddy Rollin’ Stone.” The band’s many influences play tug of war over the course of the disc. The CD’s opening track, “All I Want to Do,” sounds like the Kingston Trio gone electric; “Hard Times” is a faux protest song about goings-on down at the union hall; and the hand-drum sound and gentle, singsongy melody of “Look at Me I’m Fighting” make it resemble a Buddy Holly tune.
Though the band describes its sound as “folkadelic rock,” the album is high on folk on low on “delic.” Indeed, the only song that seems to fit the bill is the concept tune “Avenue to Ecstasy,” which juxtaposes nursery rhyme and urban imagery (resulting in the not displeasing image of Humpty Dumpty wandering the set of Taxi Driver). On the whole, though, feel-bad songs like “Home’s Become a Prison” and “Break Me, Shake Me” are the disc’s representative tunes. Psycho Rodeo is available at local record stores, and by mail for $15 from Adelphi Records, P.O. Box 7688, Silver Spring, MD 20907.—Nicole Arthur