Dr. Horsemachine and the Moneynotes – This Year We Hunt

Scranton, PA has had a rough go for the past 50 or so years. The major industries that once made this little city one of the biggest in the early history of the United States are gone and, along with neighboring city Wilkes-Barre, Scranton was put up for the “armpit of America” award not too long ago. As a life-long Pennsylvanian there’s never seemed like much of a reason to visit Scranton, but now that Dr. Horsemachine and the Moneynotes has seeped its way into my brain a northerly road trip might just be in order.

This Year We Hunt opens with “A Pirate’s Confession” – a jaunty hootenanny of a number with lots of fun, rollicking banjo, piano, and violin that is sure fire up the blood of all piratey types. The band packs this tune with every pirate reference in the book, from booze and women to scurvy and sloops. This song alone should make fans of tongue in cheek roots music stand up and take notice. Lest the good doctor and his rapscallions be accused of mere novelty from the mention of a pirate themed tune, one just has to move forward to the second track, “My Magdalyne”, a sweet tune that proves just how tight this group is. “The Body in My Trunk” and “Ms. Edison” keep the party lighthearted and on an upward crush toward the foot stomping “Bitch”. This song isn’t the strongest of the pack, but it’s like a big crowd pleaser at live performances. The final track, “Pertaining to the existence of Martha and her husband Wallace”, is slow and strange, but wonderful nonetheless.

It’s worth noting that the Moneynotes feature no less than six musicians and the album lists another eight contributors. The possibility that these folks regularly get together and play, for fun and profit (or at least beer money) isn’t hard to imagine. Sweaty basement parties, backyards, and lazy Sunday afternoon porch playing all come to mind. For a state often referred to as “Pennsyltucky” by its residents it’s not much of a stretch that such a good blend of country, bluegrass, and other roots music could originate here. The more theatrical, Vaudeville aspects of Dr. Horsemachine and the Moneynotes? Well, let’s just say the water in Pennsylvania is a little funny.

Rooting for the home(state) team is easy when the music is this good. Dr. Horsemachine and the Moneynotes is a solid group of musicians that seem to have a lot of fun making music. Nothing on this album is completely mind-blowing, but it doesn’t have to be more hipster-than-thou to be wholly entertaining. Regardless of where you call home, pick up This Year We Hunt and join in the fun.