Curtis Eller touts himself as "New York's angriest yodeling banjo player," which is like claiming to be the funniest Tuvan throat singer in Tallahassee. He's got the market cornered, all right, but he's less angry than voracious about the old-time American history (in style and song) he plunders. On this year's Wirewalkers and Assassins, the circus-trained juggler and acrobat plucks and plinks over dark visions of the American South, pre-execution prayers, faux-proletarian arsonist fantasies and a heady, obsessive matrix of conspiracy theories. But even as he bumps up against the musical limits of vaudevillian hokum — some slick slide guitar and country-soul-sister backing vocals save him — he spins his yarns with unfettered imagination and affection. Eller's lexicon is rough, wide and impervious to irony.
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