"David Chen and the Muddy Basin Ramblers, those high-spirited stalwarts of Delta, country, jug-band and hokum put on one of their best performances. Where else in all of Southeast Asia could someone go out for a pint and witness an ace tap-dancer, playing a jug and singing The Fourth Street Mess-around? I ask you. You might think shenanigans like that are not be your cup of tea, but the combination of hi-jinx, high camp and a sincere dedication to the spirit of home-made music is infectious and fun.
David Chen, lead singer, guitarist and kazoo-whiz, is the driving force and the eye-of-the-storm in what is at times a sonic maelstrom. Conor Prunty, a paragon of the harmonica, is the Rock to which David anchors himself so as not to be swept away by the Rambler¡¦s collective exuberance. The other Ramblers are: Will Thelin, tap-dancer extraordinaire. Will also doubles on kazoo, harmonica and jug as well as adding his strong lyric-baritone voice to the vocal milieu. Tim Hogan provides percussive accompaniment on washboard, tambourine, snare drum and anything else at hand. Sandy Murray doubles on alto and tenor sax and the world¡¦s most expensive penny-whistle. The Ramblers are also joined by TC Lin on dead-pan trumpet and wash-tub bass."
"David Chen and the Muddy Basin Ramblers were certainly the sharpest dressed musicians I'd seen in a while. Fedoras at jaunty angles, clothes that may well have been ironed, a guy tap-dancing in the man from Del Monte's suit, and in the midst of it all, this guy playing sweet, sweet slide guitar and singing with a voice straight off a 1930's blues record, without the crackling sound. David Chen is from Chillicothe, Ohio, a place I can barely pronounce let alone imagine. He's a real band leader, and in the course of a gig he gradually whips this raggle-taggle bunch of foreigners into a frenzy of tapping, washboard, spoons and multiple kazoos.
When they play, they often play at Peshawar. If you've been wandering around the Shi Ta area on a Saturday evening, you may well have stumbled across its low door, which looks rather too Mediterranean to be in Asia. It's a small bohemian tea house and pub that hosts performances on Saturday nights. By the second set, Chen's band invariably has the place rocking fit to bust, and often jam well into the night when the punters have faded away. At a show, you're sure to end up tapping your feet, and even hooting and hollering by the end of the night. Although Chen does write songs, he claims to be "no songwriter", and prefers to keep to traditional material - Robert Johnson, Big Bill Broonzy, Mississippi John Hurt - though you may catch some of his originals as the night goes on. And even if old time "blues and hokum" is not your bag, his ecstatic facial contortions are priceless."
Mp3 Recordings from a performance at The Shannon in December, 2004
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