What do you get when you mix cabaret with polka, paired with a sliver of Danny Elfman-esque mystique to it? The answer can be found on Carnival Dust, the latest EP from the indie band known as Dust Bowl Faeries. The band is comprised of Ryder Cooley (accordion, singing saw, lead vocals), Jon B. Woodin (guitar, vocals), Rubi LaRue (lapsteel, vocals), Liz LoGiudice (bass, vocals) and Andrew Stein(percussion), and their willingness to push the envelope on what is possible in the folk genre is commendable. Dust Bowl Faeries seem very comfortable in their own quirky skin and proudly invite you to their show.
Starting off Carnival Dust with the polka-tinged “Cuckoo” is certainly a brave choice, with an earworm of a chorus that is sure to stick with you, regardless of how you feel about it. What the band does best on songs like this is to tell a story through their lens of a folk band traveling from show to show, or whomever bends an ear to listen to their tale. “The Changeling” follows the infectious opener with a darker, brooding type of folklore that is sure to speak to the goth fan that lives in all of us.
”The Medicine Show” continues down the path of uniqueness, albeit armed with forked-tongue storytelling about the pitfalls of diving headfirst into a place you may not feel comfortable exploring on your own. Imagine a Rob Zombie horror movie, with this song playing in the background, that does the trick in making you feel a little uneasy of the characters’ impending doom. For those who bravely take the full experience on, “The Old Ragdoll” plays out like a merry-go-round on acid, while “Clockwork Romance” would work on the soundtrack of a Quentin Tarantino spaghetti western flick. The band offers few exit ramps to the normal, but I have to admit that the latter plays off like if The Decemberists joined forces with Sarah and the Safe Word to see where their musical bonding would take them.
Closing out with “Lost In Time” leaves the listener with the similar feeling of what they experienced on “Cuckoo,” and re-captures the imagination of hearing The Nightmare Before Christmas soundtrack for the first time all over again. While I don’t think I’ll come back to Carnival Dust too often, it certainly offers a niche listening experience for those brave enough to try something out of their comfort zones.