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Boiled in Lead

October 8, 2009 at 10:11 am
By Margaret Taylor '10

Last week, the Minneapolis-based band Boiled in Lead swept through Carleton campus with its fusion of folk-music lyrics, rock beats, and funky humor.  Described as “country music, from many different countries,” or “Celtodelic rock n’ reel,” Boiled in Lead takes traditional folk music from around the world and performs it with a drum set, an electric guitar, and – that’s right, folks – an electrified fiddle.  Their bass player, Drew Miller, explained it this way:  “We take traditional music into a nontraditional context … Boiled in Lead is kind of a stew.”

Miller is a Carleton alum from the class of 1981.  Though Boiled in Lead has gone through numerous personnel changes over the years, he’s been with the band since its founding in 1983.  Since then, Boiled in Lead has won over 20 Minnesota Music Awards, performed internationally, and appeared on NPR.  Last Friday, Miller returned to his alma mater to give a convocation talk and a concert later that evening.  “I didn’t think we would inflict 45 minutes of me talking on you,” he said at the opening of convo, so Boiled in Lead performed instead.

Besides Miller on the bass guitar, Boiled in Lead consists of Todd Menton, the lead singer who also plays the mandolin, harmonica, and a thing called a bodhran, Marc Anderson on the drums, David Stenshoel on the fiddle, and Dean Magraw, a guitarist who could not be there last Friday.

Much of the time, they played traditional songs in a peppy, rock n’ roll style, including “Paddy Works on the Railroad,” an Irish immigrant song, and Armenian and Turkish dance tunes.  “Apple Tree Wassail,” from England, was so popular they played it again at the evening concert.  Wassailing is the tradition of singing songs door-to-door in exchange for treats, á la “So bring us some figgy pudding.”  It’s also traditional around apple harvesting time to fire shotguns up into the apple trees to bring good luck and a good harvest next year.  “If I was a tree, I’d be extremely committed to producing all the apples they wanted,” said Menton.

But it was in their original music that Boiled in Lead’s unique sense of humor really showed through.  Nowhere else can you find a folk-punk band that plays music with lyrics like these:

I went to see the first lieutenant
He said ‘God, they're going to bomb us,
from their vicious flying llamas!’

They also played “Silver Carp,” a cautionary tale about the attack of the Asiatic silver carp that are swimming up the Mississippi River.  And if you were concerned about this year’s flu season, Menton’s “The Microorganism” provides some good advice:

Rattle your sword before you strike
And never kiss anyone you like.

You can learn more about the band--and hear tracks of their music--on the Boiled In Lead web site.