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The Insect Trust — The Insect Trust
(Ascension ANCD031, 1968/2000, CD)
by Peter Thelen, Published 2001-03-01
This late-60s quintet from NYC epitomized the broad sense of musical experimentation of the era, pulling incongruent forms together, and through a combination of optimism and naiveté, managing to make them work. An unlikely assemblage of musicians, the Trust featured guitarist Bill Barth (electric, acoustic, bottleneck slide, etc.), Bob Palmer (alto sax, clarinet, recorders – who years later would become rock critic Robert Palmer), Trevor Koehler (baritone sax, piccolo, sewer drum, thumb piano, upright bass), Luke Faust (banjo, banjo-guitar, vocals) and singer Nancy Jeffries, a powerful vocalist with a strong folk-rock sensibility. Rounding out this lineup were top-notch session players on bass, drums, rhythm guitar, and some uncredited strings. Their sound is all over the map, but generally combines elements of 60s psychedelic rock, jugband, and blues, with a strong injection of jazz and folk. Tracks like "Mountain Song" and "World War I Song" tend to showcase the jugband element, while pieces like "The Skin Game" with its maelstrom of slide guitars and wailing saxes typifies their psychedelic rock perspective. A cover of "Special Rider Blues" and a Barth/Jeffries composition "Going Home" are solid blues, the former an absolute smokin' performance by all, while the latter is primarily an acoustic trio of Barth, Jeffries, and Palmer. "Been Here and Gone So Soon" presents their folkier side, perhaps with a touch of Appalachia. A cover of Gabor Szabo's "Walking on Nails" is another highlight and a good showcase for Jeffries' voice, but perhaps the album's strongest piece is "Miss Fun City", with its introspective banjo intro, droning electric rhythm guitar with saxes soloing over the top – and another splendid showcase for Jeffries' voice; it combines all the best elements of their sound in equal proportion. It's great to finally have this obscure classic available on CD. Recommended!
Related artist(s): The Insect Trust
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