Big Iguana

Mary Stribling

Mondo Blondo Records (HB 102)

A review for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
By Roberta B. Schwartz (rschwartz@oeb.harvard.edu)

Cross the irreverent humor and sly observational skills of Christine Lavin with the sheer musical virtuosity of Susan Werner, and you begin to approach the music of Mary Stribling. Armed with an acoustic string bass and a band of excellent musicians, Stribling crosses genres from traditional folk, to country, polka, and above all, jazz.

BIG IGUANA opens with a tribute to cats called "Cats are Cool." This catchy light jazz number immediately introduces us to the musical talents of Stribling's backup band. Her sense of humor is featured in both her lyrics, and in the seamless insertion of a few bars of "Three Blind Mice."

"Emeline" showcases Stribling's clear voice in a traditional American folk song detailing a woman's sin and subsequent downfall. "Fast Flowing River" is an old time country song featuring Lynn Morris on banjo. Mary uses tongue-in-cheek humor in the title song "Big Iguana," that warns us that things are not what they appear to be! She is accompanied by Margot Kimmel's wonderful harp. Neil Haverstock's expert guitar accompanies Stribling's sultry vocals on "Our Romance Is...."

The band displays some cool jazz licks on "Heartbreak Canyon," where the reptile theme continues with both a lizard and a rattlesnake appearing in the lyrics. The trials and tribulations of urban living appear with a large dose of humor in "Road Construction." I particularly liked the all-male chorus chiming in as a group of road workers with "men at work, men at work!" A dancing armadillo is the subject of Stribling's contribution to polka music in "The Armadillo Polka." Ron Jones provides a lighthearted accordion on this standout number.

As a special treat, noted singer/songwriter Carla Sciaky provides harmony vocals to the traditional country track, "Like A Bell." The one all-instrumental piece on the recording, "The Key," lets the players shine: Mary Stribling on soulful bass, Harry Grainger on sax, Scott Bennett on guitar, and Eric Weber on mandolin. The recording closes with a lovely folk song, "How Could I Know," again showcasing the talents of Carla Sciaky on concertina and violin.

Mary Stribling, founding member of Colorado's touted acoustic group, The Mother Folkers, continues her solid musical credentials with this first-rate recording. The quality of the musicianship, the blending of both classical and contemporary acoustic instrumentation, and the bringing together of several musical genres should place this recording into the collections of anyone who appreciates good music, good fun and good humor.

© 1995, by Three Rivers Folklife Society.
This review may be reprinted with subsequent permission and attribution.

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