Illinois quartet employs unlikely instruments in genre-blending 'novelty dance music' - Jan. 6

Illinois quartet employs unlikely instruments in genre-blending 'novelty dance music' - Jan. 6

January 2nd, 2014 by Casey Phillips in Chattnow Music

Multi-instrumentalists Tim Berg, JP Goguen, Cody Jensen and Charlie Harris, from left, make up Bones Jugs N Harmony.

Photo by Contributed Photo/Times Free Press.

IF YOU GO

* What: Lon Eldridge with Bones Jugs N Harmony.

* When: 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 6.

* Where: The Camp House, 1427 Williams St.

* Admission: $5.

* Phone: 423-702-8081.

* Website: www.thecamphouse.com

Despite its seemingly scatterbrained appearance, there's a kind of artistic asymmetry to the confused jumble of patches on a crazy quilt that somehow works despite itself.

The same could be said of Bones Jugs N Harmony, a quartet of musicians from Urbana, Ill., whose sound breathlessly fuses elements of ragtime, blues, calypso, Dixieland jazz and even hip-hop.

To pull off this feat of controlled musical chaos, Tim Berg, JP Goguen, Cody Jensen and Charlie Harris employ a trunk full of B-list instruments. In addition to the five- and four-string banjo, upright bass and guitar, their songs are peppered with the sound of bike horns, kazoos, steel pan, cider jugs and quijadas (a traditional Latin instrument made from a donkey's jawbone).

"The idea was to have an acoustic but loud and rowdy sound," Harris says. "Our instruments are entertaining - entertaining to the eyes - us jumping around between instruments is entertaining, and the sounds are unique. People notice that."

On Monday, Jan. 6, Bones Jugs N Harmony will perform on a two-bill at The Camp House with local bluesman Lon Eldridge as part of a three-week Bone Voyage winter tour.

Harris and Jensen have performed together in pop/rock, bluegrass and Afro-pop bands since 2010, but last February, they formed a new group to accompany a friend who was studying the work of xylophone virtuoso George Hamilton Green. The idea was to create a new group with a throwback sound, a la bands such as The Carolina Chocolate Drops or Chicago-based Devil in a Woodpile.

Since Bones Jugs N Harmony's inception, its members has played about 60 shows and have been rehearsing like mad to hone and tighten their sound. In addition to several hours of covers - including an unlikely homage to the Beastie Boys' "Girls" - the band has written about 90 minutes of original material. Their show Monday should last about an hour, Harris says.

Despite describing their genre, somewhat self-deprecatingly, as "novelty dance music," Harris says he and his bandmates perform the material seriously while still keeping their shows approachable and entertaining.

"We care a lot about the integrity of the music and performing it well and being sincere to audiences but not in a way that people aren't supposed to hoot and holler and laugh," he says. "That's a goal of ours and something that we work hard to accomplish.

"We don't want to be the kind of thing that has to be intellectualized for people to enjoy."

Contact Casey Phillips at cphillips@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6205. Follow him on Twitter at @PhillipsCTFP.