June Levine and The Rude Mechanicals Band create stirring, inventive, and whimsical folk songs inspired by Shakespearean stories and plays. The simplistic instrumentation and comedic delivery provides an entertaining message with historical and literary significance. June’s songwriting and vocal talents are accompanied by The Rude Mechanicals Band, which include Lori Higa, Geoffrey Pond, Kevin Moore, and Cindy Weyuker.
“Julius Caesar” opens with male vocals and an acoustic guitar with a Mediterranean or Greek fretted instrument, which provides an engaging and enthusiastic progression related to a mandolin, but it is most likely a bouzouki. There are multiple vocals that take turns narrating the story in a sung format. The accordion sounds and acoustic guitar are punchy and the vocals are folk-centered with a theatrical flair throughout. The jaunty rhythm and lack of percussion provides a strong foundation for the lyrical display.
“Hamlet” begins with a few acoustic guitar strums and the eerie drone of a musical saw. The male vocals start the song with a ruddy, European melody in the form of a sailor song diddy. However, the chorus of male and female vocals offset the single vocal displays without percussion. The acoustic guitar, musical saw, and accordion round out the instrumental repertoire.
“King Lear” opens with an eerie musical saw, ambulating acoustic guitar, and a lower vocal range set that is not accompanied by any percussion. The lower vocal ranges are reminiscent of European folk or sailor songs with a heady melody that is unaccompanied by other female vocals. The song is similar in progression to “Hamlet.” The lack of additional vocals creates a stronger delivery that is more ominous overall, which is not a deleterious factor. Instead, the deep vocal tones create a stronger impression without sounding too showy.
“Rick The Third” begins with a jaunty Appalachian-tinged, patriotic tune on acoustic guitar, piano, and brushy percussion. The male vocals are a little rough, but that is only for effect. The early Americana tune contains theatrical male vocals with more melodic female vocals during the chorus and last few lines. The vocals overall are not particularly off-putting, because the pragmatic characteristics of the lyrical delivery are based on a purposeful, English-tinged and accented composition.
“Much Ado About Nothing” opens with soft strings and a folksy acoustic guitar with a crystal clear female vocal set without additional vocalizations. The flowing melody is guided by the acoustic guitar and the string sounds that arise during the chorus. The interesting feature of the song resides in the exact rhythm and melody of an earlier, Welsh church hymn—“Sent Forth By God’s Blessing”—written by Omer Westendorf. However, the lyrics are different and the instruments represent a more medieval tune with spritely Renaissance grandeur.
“Romeo and Juliet” begins with bird-like sounds, male vocals, and a plaintive folk guitar. Female vocals chime in with a chorus of voices backed by guitar and bass. The voices are slightly different throughout, which represent a somewhat Southern folk tune. The comedic interplay adds to the mix, but the instruments add an equally-fine component. Hand-clap sounds and accordion sounds provide a sunny mood overall.
June Levine and The Rude Mechanicals Band are anything but rude, though the lyrics accurately portray the Shakespearean tragedies without any wavering on authenticity. The twenty-two compositions represent a great cross-section of Shakespearean stories with a fine mix of guitar, bass, percussion, strings, accordion, musical saw, and bouzouki. However, the songs are not particularly heavily-burdened with instrumentation, which probably allows the comedic lyrics to shine through. The rousing melodies, quaint instrumentation, and melodic appeal will appease fans of Shakespearean tragedy with a hankering for folk music.
Review by Matthew Forss
Rating: 5 Stars (out of 5)