Fat Man & Little Boy’s new album The Atomic Duo has been in my CD stack for a while now; I enjoyed listening to it on a Thanksgiving trip, so that tells you. I wanted to share it with you in case you had not already read a review of it elsewhere. Although this is technically their first album together, I hesitate to call it a debut album because these two are not new to the music business.
Fat Man & Little Boy, in this case, are musicians rather than bombs, but you notice by the CD title that they took advantage of the pun. Their real names are Mark Rubin and Silas Lowe. Rubin was a founding member of Bad Livers, and Lowe has been a member of several bands including the college group Northern Aggression. Lowe plays the resonator mandolin and the melody banjo; Rubin plays the resonator guitar and the fiddle. Both of them provide vocals, separately and together, for the tracks that have them. George Carver, the album producer, joins them playing the harmonica and bass harmonica.
These are a couple of guys goofing off in front of a mike, and at the same time a lot of fun to listen to. They know their instruments and they know the old music they’re playing, well enough to occasionally interject their own words for an updated take. The first tune on the CD is a merry ragtime number called “Easy Winner.” Going down the track list (not, by the way, in the same order as listed on the cover), they have a great time bringing out one old song after another and giving it their own sound. Even with depressing material such as “Rope Stretchin’ Blues,” this is an enjoyable selection of ragtime, blues and swing. “Turpentine Farm” is one of the funnier numbers. The group pulls out the country sound, twangy slides and all, on the love-story-gone-wrong song “The Memory of Your Smile” and on the country gospel tune “Mother’s Not Dead.” Although the songs are labeled “traditional,” another review names some of the sources, or at least the original known performers.
Several live radio recordings are available on Archive.org and videos of more radio station performances are available on ReverbNation. More on how the duo and the album came about, and Rubin’s thoughts on the cultural legacy of music, are found in an interview on the Americana archive site SPPS.