Andy Offutt Irwin,
Banana Seat
(Echo Lake, 1995)

When I first picked up Andy Offutt Irwin's CD Banana Seat I was a little hesitant. Here is a guy with a goofy name releasing a CD with a goofy title. When I looked at the pictures in the liner notes, Andy even looked goofy. What was I getting myself into?

Boy, was I ever pleasantly surprised to find out just how right, but wrong I was. Yes, Andy is a goof. But it is by choice. He is one of the most clever, hysterical, and eccentric adult children I have ever run across. This Covington, Georgia resident has managed to retain his youth yet develop a wicked sense of humor that can only come with age and experience.

Andy has a wide range of vocal talents. He can sing with a normal voice, a high-pitched, girlie voice or even a deep baritone. He whistles and likes to accompany himself with body-part percussion. Andy is rather adept at telling stories and based on the live cuts on the CD, I get the impression that much of his act must be seen to be fully appreciated.

Unless you live in the greater Atlanta area, you might have to settle for the songs available on Banana Seat. The CD consists of 10 songs (most of them are originals), a 22-plus minute tale from his youth and a short reprise. I think the man needs to come out with a video. Until that time, I think the CD is a worthy purchase if you have a sense of humor, can relate to living in the South or miss your inner child.

"Clarice" could be your typical love story from the segregationist South of the 20th century. Boy meets girl. Boy loses girl ... to the Klan. Andy attacks this serious subject with his trademark sense of irreverent humor. What I really like about this song is that all the instruments are vocal or body parts. Very clever!

I feel that "Would You Mind Dating an Extremist" is a very catchy title. It certainly caught my attention! I also feel that this is one of the more catchy tunes on the CD. Great guitar and some serious body percussion add to the beat. I think fans of old Violent Femmes would like this song.

According to Andy, he was able to get one of his teachers to raise a D to a B after singing to him about the "Clamydomonas." He admits that he is not even sure if he spelled it correctly. Those of you who are lacking a background on single-cell organisms and didn't do too well in biology will appreciate the talent and wit that went into helping a creative right-brained artist remember facts about a subject he had no interest in. The rest of you will simply appreciate Andy's sense of humor.

If the racism on "Clarice" did not strike a chord with you, perhaps you might be (slightly) offended by "Mamma Don't Make Me," where "Jesus loses an argument with his mom." However, if you are offended, you are taking this tongue-in-cheek CD far too seriously.

The one piece that I do not think belongs on Banana Seat is "The Rudiments." This story is rather long and recounts a part of Andy's youth. The reflections on Southern society are intriguing and (again based on the live audience in the background) I feel much was lost since Andy is also a visual artist. I listened to the tale twice to make sure I got it all. But at more than 22 minutes, I now stop the CD when I get to this point.

Andy had a large supporting cast on Banana Seat including Ron Balthazor (drums), Paul Carpenter (double bass), Ray Chesna (arch top guitar), Cyndi Craven (vocals), Rodger French (Accordion), Terry Kelly (electric guitar, bass, vocals), David Leinweber (guitar), Tim Reis (bass, fretless bass, mandolin, lap steel and vocals), Matthew Trautwein (violin) and Joe Vaux (vocals).

[ by Wil Owen ]
Rambles: 1 September 2001