Caleb Warren and the Perfect Gentlemen joyfully combine musical genres
Ask Caleb Warren and the Perfect Gentlemen what kind of band they are—and prepare yourself for a lengthy answer. Ragtime, Western swing, string jazz, country blues, gypsy jazz and hokum are a few of the genres they invoke to describe themselves. Ask me to describe what kind of band they are and I am more inclined to describe them as 10 pounds of fun in a five-pound sack and a rollicking good time.
Let’s start at the beginning. Caleb Warren plays guitar and tenor banjo. David Aitken handles lead guitar and banjo. Matt Monica doubles down on bass and kazoo. Colt Bowen covers percussion. Jenna Mobley saws the fiddle and Robert Green blows the trumpet. Everyone but Jenna shares vocal duties as evidenced by some fantastic harmonies on their EP The River.
To give you an idea of their sound, I could rattle off more genre descriptors, but I think a better way to capture the essence is this: If Peter Ostroushko and The Guys All-Star Shoe Band were to quit “Prairie Home Companion” tomorrow, these kids could step right in, never miss a beat and fill those considerably large shoes better than any other band I’ve heard. If the reference eludes, suffice it to say that Caleb and his merry bunch are top-notch musicians, pro caliber all the way.
One might fairly say their music is “old timey” but not “old time.” There are a few bands in town who do, in fact, play “old time” music and have mastered their art, but that’s not what these kids are about. They play modern music with an “old time” approach—not purists perhaps, but they don’t claim to be. New wine in an old bottle.
Although I only had the opportunity to hear a couple of tracks from their EP (released back in November) what I heard was outstanding. The title track is as good an indication as any of the band’s depth. It has the qualities of a hymn or spiritual tune, but dark and haunted, with lyrics that are straight-up blues and a sinister banjo that busts the myth “You can’t play a sad song on a banjo.” The hell you can’t.
The other tune, “Momma Won’t You Please Come Home” is a joyful noise, a bit of swing, I suppose; infectiously toe-tapping. Imagine hearing a room full of instruments where every instrument is doing something just a little different. You can hear each individual part perfectly and yet the lot coalesces into a song best described as happily, gorgeously, insanely busy, counterpointed by the almost languid lyrics. What can I tell you? It’s art, man. It’s trapeze artists and precision flying teams and one of those big “human-pyramid-on-water-skis” deals. It’s just jazzy enough to play well in the Big Easy, too breezy for Bourbon Street but passing the time nicely on Decatur.
By the time this article goes to press, they will have already played their New Year’s Eve gig at the Clermont in Atlanta, and that’s a shame because that will be one hell of a show. Or, from the perspective of you readers in the future, it was one hell of a show. Your next best chance to see the band will be Jan. 9 at The Earl in Atlanta, Jan. 10 at Mac McGee in Roswell, GA and Jan. 15 at Bartow County Chamber of Commerce (Museum of Western Art booth). They have a busy schedule throughout the spring and the best way to keep up is via their Facebook page.
If you need something to smile about, if you’ve had a bad day and just want to feel good for a while, the Gentlemen (and the Lady) are the prescription.
Now with more cowbell!