Houston Music

The Churn

Houstonians can now scratch another entry off the list of Cross-Pollinated Musical Genres We Thought We'd Never See. Taking their name quite literally, the members of the Churn have tossed quite a bit into Ye Olde Stir Pot and come out with a creamy product that can best be described as an electric instrumental psychedelic Celtic jam, equally perfect for your backyard St. Patrick's Day party or a 420 fund-raiser.

The Churn is a new side project of Flying Fish Sailor Mitch Lawyer (mandolin), with Jim Mackenzie on guitar, Jon Palmer on bass and ex-Zuzu's Petals pounder Scott Washburn on drums. The 13 tracks here are all traditional Irish jigs, reels and American fiddle tunes (with the odd Renaissance dance ditty thrown in) that have been infused with trippy Bonnaroo-style sheen.

"Hag at the Churn," "Frieze Britches" and "Say Old Man" are river-stepping rockers in the tradition of Irish rock bands like Lenahan. The '70s jam-friendly "June Apple," the very Irish "Arran Boat Song" and a Robin Trower-inspired "Cantiga 166" fairly reek of patchouli and hemp. The Churn also brings tinges of reggae ("Pastorelle") and jazz ("Pipe on the Hub") to the proceedings. Throughout, Lawyer and Mackenzie's stringed instruments grapple in a pub brawl, pushing the plucking into a frenzy. But there are some drawbacks to Big Buttah. More slow numbers would have helped the pacing of the all-instrumental format. Taken as a forum to expose traditional Celtic/Irish music to a nontraditional audience, this album does deliver. But it also runs the risk of sliding into novelty-act territory or becoming background music for dancing. Still, when you get the musical munchies, Big Buttah slathers pretty nicely on a slice of soda bread.

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