The Possum Trot Orchestra
"Harbor Road"
by Johanna J. Bodde

(Southern Can CDs) and

I luv these Possums! For quite a while already, since I enthusiastically started playing "Going Back To Vicksburg" by SpokesPossum John Minton in the radioshow Alt.Country Cooking. At that time the singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist (except for the wind instruments, he plays everything that makes a sound) was already collaborating with husband and wife team Rob and Susie Suraci, also known as The Flying Suraci. In daily life John is a professor of folklore at Indiana University - Purdue University Fort Wayne, he teaches courses on American folk and popular music, he publishes often on the subject. Susie is a painter and Rob a recording engineer who builds guitars. These fine people joined forces in The Possum Trot Orchestra -one of the most inventive names for a group I've ever heard- and released a self-titled album in 2005. (We at Alt.Country Cooking made it Flavor Of The Month!) Susie took over a fair share of the songwriting plus leadvocals and only good came from that change. Even a certain music website that I regularly accuse of vinegar pissing, couldn't deny all this quality and gave the album top ratings. The music of The Possums is based on American tradition in a variety of styles (folk, country, roots-rock, bluegrass, blues) but radiates an incredible freshness!
Now there's "Harbor Road", with a beautiful vintage looking lay-out (photographs from 1909-1911), just like the previous CD's. The lyrics are featured in the booklet, smart addition, especially for us Europeans, who like to study the subjects! This album contains fourteen tracks or should I say gems? Thirteen written by John or Susie, plus Blind Lemon Jefferson's "Bad Luck Blues", sung and also played for the biggest part by Rob Suraci, this is why I like old country blues so much! And I'm still dazzled by the original stuff The Possums have to offer... 

Traditional topics, current events and issues but of course also -as they announce themselves- that mother-of-all-song-subjects: LOVE. Good, bad and broken hearted. Arranged in old ways or even sounding kind of poppy, sung and played impeccably. A fourth musician, Dave Kartholl adds mandolin and I just can't get enough of John's accordion... "Heart Like Railroad Steel" (that title and that electric slide guitar!) and "Buckeys Town" (with catchy chorus and upbeat interplay between 5-string banjo and mandolin) are absolutely gorgeous duets. "Ed" (about a couple in New Orleans the night Hurricane Katrina struck, not knowing that the levees broke) and "Billy" (about a Korea veteran: "And when they roll them laundry carts / He thinks they're Chinese howitzers", true story?) bring tears to my eyes... More great, realistic lyrics in "The House That We Can't Buy" and "The Content Of Your News": "Not long ago my radio was a source of heart and soul / Maverick DJ's programmed the airwaves / Now they just play what they're told." How true that is... And more wonderful stories in "The Devil At The Card Party" (scary!) and "Knoxville" (I think I know that guy!). O.K., one more word from me: RECOMMENDED!! And SpokesPossum John says casually: "Hey- when all else fails, try playing Possum!"
Written by Johanna J. Bodde, January 2007.