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May 2024
Vol. 23, No. 8

CD Reviews

THE MAD HAT HUCKSTERS: What’s the Matter with the Mill?

by Paul HomiczMay 2024

I used to believe what people sought in life, what they really craved deep down, was authenticity. Religion was one of the topics I studied in college, and perhaps that shaded my view of the world. As I studied different religions, I found again and again believers seeking a truer form of their religion, looking for earlier doctrines that probably were more attuned to what their prophet preached. They wanted the authentic Moses, the authentic Jesus, the authentic Buddha.

I saw this search for authenticity elsewhere. Restaurants advertise that they serve authentic French cuisine. I remember a guy with a taco restaurant who refused to serve burritos because they weren’t considered an authentic Mexican dish. Fake Rolexes look just like the real ones, but folks will spend lots and lots of money to ensure they have the real thing.

But the next question is “does authenticity really matter?” Fake Rolexes probably keep time just as well as real ones. Foie gras with a dash of English Worcestershire would probably have every Michelin chef screaming bloody meurtre, but it might just be oh, so delicious. And sometimes the Mexican food I want the most is a burrito. I don’t care what Mama Sanchez has to say about it.

Which brings me to the topic of the Mad Hat Hucksters. Led by Morgan Day, the Hucksters have been treating San Diegans to the sounds of old-time swing for the last eight or nine years. The Hucksters have just released a new CD, What’s the Matter with the Mill? (In full disclosure, I have filled in and performed with the Hucksters on a few occasions.)

The question is “are the Mad Hat Hucksters authentic?” Do they authentically recreate the old-time swing music delighted audiences and got people dancing in the parlors and speakeasys of the United States and elsewhere between the two great wars?

Well… yes, and no.

No, they don’t aim to look authentic. They don’t wear suspenders and bowler hats (well, at least most of them). They don’t dress in old-time suits and ties. When the perform, they look like normal folks in the early part of the 21st century.

On the other hand, their sound is pretty gosh darn authentic. They have the feel and groove that comes from the grooves of old 78 rpm recordings, the ones with Louis Armstrong, Fats Waller, and Jellyroll Morton.

Most important, the band has that great sense of fun that pervades the songs of Armstrong, Waller, and all the other great swing musicians. Try not to smile when you hear the Hucksters’ version of “When You’re Smiling” or “Corina Corina.” You are also in for a laugh or two with the band’s renditions of “Let’s Get Drunk and Truck” and “You’re Feet’s Too Big.”

Besides leading the band, Day plays drums, washboard, and sings. Ezri Martinez is on piano, Jeremy Eikam plays bass. Anthony Marca is on guitar. Nightshade Navarro plays soprano sax and sings. Ben Sachs is on tenor sax and sings. The disk is a guaranteed delight for dancers and children of all ages.

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