The Lost River Cavemen are Looking Good
“An original tapestry of folk, rock, old country, and americana spun together in a truly refreshing aural presentation like nothing you’ve ever heard.” is the description on CD Baby’s website for the Lost River Cavemen’s first CD “Taste for Life”. I found the use word “aural” humorously appropriate when you consider the words “lost” and “cave” in their name. It is even more so when you expand the definition of aural to apply it as a teaching method, meaning to take printed material and render it to audio. So by explanation these guys are lost pre-historic fluid audio entrepreneurs that are instructing you audibly, right? About what exactly you ask? Well life and how to enjoy it.
The Lost River Cavemen are Mike McMillian (vocals and acoustic guitar), Kerry Pruitt (violin and vocals), ‘Geno’ Wilson (upright bass and backing vocals) and Joshua Riddle (drums and percussion). So that’s not quite bluegrass so is that newgrass? If you’ve listened to them or seen them perform then you know they can’t quite be pigeon holed into one specific genre. The combination of Kerry’s fiddle playing and I’ll borrow the phrase for lack of finding a better one, a ‘ragtime jazz’ rhythm, makes them stand out amongst a wealth of americana and folk rock bands that are out there.
Sitting along the wall of the Green Lantern in Lexington KY, in what seems like old theater seats, I asked the frontman of the Lost River Cavemen, Michael McMillian, what most inspired him to write this music. Trying to look and be serious, and yet failing with his life long friend, Scott Brantley, sitting next to him, baiting him into cheeky answers and then snickering at him, McMillian responded with the simple beautiful statement of, “I love being alive.” Having asked that question countless times I had never gotten that particular response, so I laughed and clapped and he continued on with, “I love my band. If we’re not drunk or f&*^%d up we’re as good as anybody. We have a large range of appeal. We play dancing, drinking and infectious music.” Being of the same persuasion about life, that is perhaps my attraction to the songs of these South Central Kentucky melody makers. Most of the songs off Taste of Life do demonstrate the complexities that having a love affair with life can have. My personal favorite is Banks of the Pontchartrain. I can’t decide if the line ‘sipping bourbon in the rain’ or ‘no self righteous punk is going to bring me down today’ does that trick for me but I surely have incorporated, ‘I’m content and comfy’ into my personal slogans.
With a new CD about to be released and what will most likely be the title track posted to ReverbNation, The Circus Goes On and On…, the band has made the decision to expand its touring into the Northeast. They’ve played away in the Carolinas, Michigan, Texas, Tennessee and few other places with such notables as Shotgun Party, Ronnie McDowell, Brian McGee & Hollowspeed, Kentucky Shoes, Delta Saints, The Shakem’ups, Al & the Black Cats, Blind Corn Liquor Pickers, Taildragger, The Yonders and a good portion of the South Central Kentucky bands that are out there. Wanting to see them play outside of their comfort zone of South Central Kentucky was one of the reasons I drove to Lexington and I dragged my Euro pop/rock loving daughter, Robin, out to see the Lost River Cavemen. She has a good ear herself and I trust her opinion enough to write down her comments and observations as we watched them play. We talk about Joshua Riddle, who seems to me reserved and she says unadventurous, and yet we both are just a little biased, especially after watching monster power drummer, Edgar Purdom, of Sunday Valley, the night before. Riddle is steady and smooth, and never once needs to prove anything to anybody. He is the solid bedrock of Lost River Cavemen.
From any recorded material you immediately catch the high tones of the violin and McMillian’s unusual vocal range. What you can’t witness from a CD is the outstanding showmanship of the upright bass player ‘Geno’ Wilson during a live performance. Always showing up for a show wearing something completely unique, he’s never flashy or gaudy, his attire adding even more character to an already unusual group of musicians. Unlike so many stand up bass players, I exclude Missy Raines, he moves that goliath around like it is made of balsam. One moment he’s laying it down and the next he’s seems to be doing the Texas 2 step with it and all the while never dropping a note. I watched quite a few people move to be where they could see him better and even heard other people tell other people to watch the bass player. I saw Robin smile frequently and laugh and comment about how fun he was. She sat next to me as I interviewed McMillian and as always she asked a few questions of her own as I jotted away. All of us nodding and laughing because McMillian’s love for life is infectious.
I’ve seen the Lost River Cavemen play three times now, once at the State Street Pub after Dick Hammer and the TBA Band and another time at Tidballs. It’s easy to entertain a crowd that knows you, but it something all together different to go somewhere were you have virtually no following and still play a good, quality, high energy show. It is always the ruler by which to gauge a band’s professionalism and integrity when both are still present regardless of the number of people not in the audience. Either you truly love what you do or you don’t.
After years of watching Kerry Pruitt play with a variety of bands, it is especially gratifying to me and another long-time fan, Liz Bissette aka Lonesome Liz, to see him with people that appreciate and showcase his talent. It is a joy to hear him sing and rev up the crowd. Though I’ve only heard the one tune off the new CD, the new material that they introduce during their performances is a shining beacon pointing to what must be an excellent CD.
So if you’re wondering around, just fumbling for something you can’t place in the dark and needing to be enlightened, venture into a Lost River Cavemen show and be sure to buy a CD on the way out. You’re gonna want to hear those songs again – they’re catching.
A review of their 2nd CD:
Update since this was written:
I was hired by the LRC to book their tour to California and back. Something that was called lovingly, ‘The Manifest Destiny Tour’. It was a complete success and witness to that is the fact that a venue that had actually double booked the LRC contacted me yesterday and begged for a booking when the LRC come back through. So the buzz about this truly unique band reaches from their hometown of Bowling Green, KY to the California Coast through the Rockies down the Missouri River and back home.
Both were originally published in my home publication http://www.bgdailynews.com/amplifier/