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It takes primal chops and serious chutzpah to inspire dancing without the aid of amplifiers, guitars, bass, or a standard drum kit. But that is exactly what Brooklyn/Hudson Valley-based ragtime punk septet Apocalypse Five and Dime accomplishes on its debut, Ballads for the End Times
. This is an unplugged, joyous romp, both sweetly nostalgic and bracingly current, redolent of gypsy caravans, candlelit squats, righteous urban street preaching, even postmodern bedroom boasting. In an increasingly synthetic age, there is a refreshing novelty, even an erotic undercurrent, to AFD’s sweaty hands, spit-slick lips, frayed horsehair bows, dented horns, and duct-taped wood and wire. These are the folks you want by your side during the next power outage.
The unfussy, roomy production by the Emmy-nominated Oscar Owens serves AFD well. Vocals—shared by ukulele-ist Michele Lee, percussionist Rebecca Heinegg, and banjoist Phil Andrews—veer from old-school crooning to exuberant soul shouting, often in one song. With ace tuba man Adam Katzman laying down some serious funk, Naomi P and Quince Marcum bringing the saxes, and violinist Heather Cole threading Eastern flourishes throughout, these mischief makers can come on lusty (an inspired cover of Justin Timberlake’s “My Love”), N’awlins street parade herky-jerky (“Mississippi Ghost Rag”), or blue and tender hearted (“You”). All of it carries a scrappy, defiant vibe. Let’s hope the End Times are far enough away to allow a few more collections from Apocalypse Five and Dime. Apocalypsefiveanddime.com.