figure. So, at the risk of taking all the fun out of this thing, let’s try to analyze it.
It’s true that an unusually wide swath of the musical universe seems to be within Chadbourne’s grasp. Playing guitar, and sometimes a banjo or other stringed instrument, he can rock out or participate in an extended avant-jazz improvisation, and he can sing, in a plain voice you either love or can’t stand, straight country, rockabilly, psychobilly, blues, and ska-punk. He’s performed—after a fashion—Bach’s Sonata and Partita no. 1 for solo violin on a five-string banjo. He writes protest folk, grotesque satires, freeform rock and roll . . . The list goes on and on. He can cover almost anything and make it into something new; one example in fairly common circulation is a version of the rockabilly classic “Train Kept a-Rollin’,” done with the Dutch jazz drummer Han Bennink and perched right between rockabilly and total jazz assault. Chadbourne has a large assortment of collaborators; as utterly idiosyncratic as his music may be, he seems to be able to sit in with musicians of many kinds. If he has a personal trademark, it’s a pair of homemade instruments, an electric lawn rake and an electric birdcage, that he sometimes brings to shows.