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Uncle Monk

Uncle Monk – 2007 (Airday)

Reviewed by Robert Loy

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Can bluegrass music save your life?

Well, consider the fact that Tommy Ramone, the only surviving original member of the punk pioneering band The Ramones, is alive and well and playing mandolin, Dobro, banjo and more with Claudia Tienan under the name Uncle Monk. It may seem like an impossible progression from "Blitzkrieg Bop" to "Uncle Pen," but it makes perfect sense to Ramone: "There is a similarity between punk and old time music, both are home brewed as opposed to schooled, both have earthy energy, and there is a certain cool in old time music that is found in the best alternative acts."

All of the songs on their debut are penned by the duo although you probably wouldn't know it unless you read the credits, the sound is traditional, and the themes are timeless. "Mr. Endicott" is every working stiff's fantasy of revenge on a slave-driver boss. We've all wondered is this is all there is ("I Need a Life") and we've all wondered why it's so hard to be friends after we're no longer lovers ("Mean to Me"). It should be noted that "traditional" need not mean "stodgy." There is enough experimentation going on here - more guitar than on most bluegrass, a flamenco vibe to "Heaven" - to classify Uncle Monk as progressive.

To all the aging punk rockers out there who find little to relate to in today's rock scene, "Hey ho, let's go" see what Uncle Monk has to offer. (Box 498, Phoenicia, N.Y. 12464)