A wild mixture of traditional and original suitable for many occasions. Songs about the legendary Hook ‘Em Cow, New Jersey State Troopers, hard work, and the mad monk Rasputin mix with tunes like Robin Anders’ Arabic suite Nasrudin, Drowning… (an uptempo dulcimer tune from Drew Miller), Josef Kessler’s Bosnian-influenced Pontiaka, and the megaCeltic rock of Sugarfoot Congress.
Frank London from Klezmatics produced these sessions at the Noise New Jersey studio. Antler Dance was named the “World Folk Album of the Year” in the 1995 Minnesota Music Awards.
- Minneapolis Star-Tribune — May 1994
- SF Weekly — May 1994
- Record Roundup — May 1994
- Folk Roots — July 1994
- Rhythm Music Magazine — October 1994
- Rock’n’Reel — October 1994
- Dirty Linen — Oct./Nov. 1994
- Bass Player — November 1994
- Sing Out! — November 1994
- !*@# (exclaim magazine) — December 1994
- Glass Eye — January 1995
- Alternative Press — May 1995
individual articles follow
Minneapolis Star Tribune
Minneapolis, MN, May 29, 1994
By Rick Mason
Kamikaze folkies with an astoundingly ecumenical and wryly twisted musical embrace, Boiled In Lead is daring and ingenious in its meltdown of world musics. The consequent Minnesota-bred goo is danceable, sticks to the cerebellum and provides a punkish kick in the butt for good measure. Compared to 1991’s Orb, this time BiL emphasizes the kick here, conceding a little multi-culturaldiversity for a megadose of adrenaline. Guitarist Adam Stemple is a closet metalhead with a weakness for the wah-wah pedal and blistering feedback, while inducing maniacal thrashing from drummer Robin Anders. Though limiting its stretch, the band still leaps genres in a single bound; Antler snags Bosnian, Celtic, Arabic, country-rock, bluegrass, Bulgarian, and even Springsteen’s Jersey Turnpike. The band’s vision may seem wildly chaotic but its hooks are tasty, its humor dark, and its musicianship uncompromising.
San Francisco CA, , May 4, 1994
By Sadie O.
How does one describe Boiled In Lead? Picture a rowdier 3 Mustaphas 3, a better-tempered Pogues, belly dancing by the Kentucky Headhunters. They’re basically four loopy, erudite old boys from Minneapolis proficient in every kind of ethnic folk music, who munge it all together, glom on some wacky lyrics and whup you upside the head with it. Yum!
Being familiar with their general state of excellence and insanity, my only worry was the departure of vocalist / twanger / tweeter Todd Menton. He alway performed well, projected an aura of unease and had truly superlative arm-muscl definition. The new guy, Adam Stemple, projects unrest rather more than unease, acquits himself admirably, and has indeterminate arm-muscle definition. There’ a lot going on with Antler Dance, from a terrifying psychedelic cover of “State Trooper” to Middle Eastern trance noodling. My stand-out favorites are the Midwestern hillbilly anti-vegetarian anthem “Hook ‘Em Cow” and the testosterone-enhanced rave-up of the old disco horror “Rasputin.” Unlike other folks who come up with strange musical ideas, Boiled In Lead doesn’t sound forced or overly clever — you gots to dance when you hear it; it cures the halt and the lame; it lances boils and shrinks hemorrhoids. Believe!
London, England, May 1994
By Simon Jones
BOILED IN LEAD
Antler Dance Omnium OMM2007
The true spirit of Boiled In Lead is that of four junior schoolboys let loose in a chocolate factory. Of course they o.d. on snippets of everything andcollapse, their faces wreathed in smiles, but then you’d expect it. And it’s the air of Just William roguery which pervades all their recordings and makes B.I.L. so darn endearing. Scampish Antler Dance maybe, and at times it’s
positively Pythonesque (“Hook ‘Em Cow,” “Rasputin”) but Miller and his coyote howlers have put more serious thought into this than the disparate Orb which preceded four years ago. That was another place, almost another band, only pilot Miller and drummer Robin Anders survive, which means
melodically and vocally there’s new blood. Guitarist Adam Stemple and bowstrel Josef Kessler both are of suitably perverse, mixed music relationships.
This B.I.L. is more purposeful and increasingly prone to dance tunes — and that’s saying something — at any excuse they fly off into a fling from wherever… “Sugarfoot Congress” being the major league pickin’ enclosed, but also the songs — “Robin’s Complaint,” a sort of “I Was A Young Man” for the 1990s — has a marvellous Celtic lilt. This advance opens with a perfectly down’n’dirty rendering of “Newry Highwayman” a.k.a. “The Flash Lad.” Kessler’s fiddle howls, Stemple eats the microphone, laconically chewing the cables.
You could trumpet the virtues of Lead for pages; they’re eccentric, sweaty, buoyant, out to party hearty and have been away for far too long. Antler Dance is as much a restatement of intent as future philosophy; be that as it may, it’s still a fine sounding constitution. Count me in!
Somerville MA, May 1994
By Bruce W. Minsky
BOILED IN LEAD Antler Dance OMNIUM 2007
Boiled In Lead’s musical method is quite simple — unconventionally incorporating global influences skewered all over the musical spectrum and firing up the assembled accumulation with a savage punk-metal torch. Including a wealth of instruments ranging from fiddle and electric dulcimer to Egyptian tabla, Antler Dance contains 58 minutes of energy and inventiveness, the highlights — among many — being “Pontiaka,” a gypsy-inspired polka (sic); “Sugarfoot Congress,” a gothic Irish reel; and “Hook ‘Em Cow,” an electrified Appalachian pop dance. Colorful and exciting, original and inviting, this release is a tasty delicacy. Recommended.
Issue #54, October/November 1994
By Dave Beltane (Panorama City, CA)
Boiled in Lead Antler Dance Omnium OMM 2007D
Boiled in Lead Fück the Circus/ Raca (Bunny Hop)
Susstones/Omnium IMS 596 (single)
It’s now official — BiL are a rock band with world beat influences. The folk scene has always had some identification with them, since they always seemed folk-based, even at their rockiest. Trad. influences are still there in some small measure, but they’re buried deeper than ever before. Whereas they used to
fit somewhere between Hüsker Dü and the Chieftains, in addition to being more rock and less folk, their rock influences grow ever less punky. Now they’re somewhere in between Fairport and King Crimson, though comparisons are usually unfair and especially so in this case — most of all they sound like BiL, if a slightly modified version.
The big news here is that lead singer, guitarist, songwriter and main focal point of the band for the past few years, Todd Menton, is gone. He’s been replaced by ex-Cats Laughing member Adam Stemple, who is in every technical respect a superior replacement, but lacks Menton’s innate (even through all that
noise) folkiness. Stemple is from blues roots, evident in both his singing and his guitar playing, and it shows up in ways that are sometimes fascinating and sometimes tentative sounding. The band copes with the change well, partly because the original songs are still good (albeit very different), and partly because Stemple can sink his teeth into rockers like Bruce Springsteen’s “State
Trooper” more gruffly than Menton ever could.
More good news is that the rhythm section of Drew Miller (bass) and Robin Anders (percussion) is back and pounding as hard as ever. Anders is known for his multi-layered sound (sometimes even when not overdubbed — he sometimes sounds like he has six hands). They all get lots of solo space (particularly
fiddler Josef Kessler), but the ensemble playing is good as well. At their worst they don’t stick out from the pack anymore — they resemble a bar band that you enjoy on Friday night and can’t describe on Saturday morning than a band that can expand your horizons, as they have mine more than once. At their best, as on the musical history lesson “Rasputin,” they have the same sense of cockiness and sharp irony, the same edge that has always been a BiL strength no matter who’s in the band.
The CD’s missing punkiness is there in spades on the single, on nice see-through, flexible and ever rarer vinyl. The “A” side is what it sounds like, a big-top gone mad thrasher, and the “B” side is a middle eastern trad. tune that really does have the bunny hop rhythm you danced to as a child, but hyped up to a speed at which one would do the bunny slamdance. These two songs sound very out of context of the CD, and seem to be a completely different entity.
A lot of their folky fans will shake their heads at both these releases. They’re still far from center, but they used to run north/south and now they run east/west.
Volume 39 #3, November 1994
By R. Weir
Boiled in Lead Antler Dance Omnium OMM 2007D
Boiled In Lead is a wild, on-the-edge band that explores the unlikely interstices between Celtic, punk rock and world music. From the opening power chords of “Newry Highwayman” to the final licks of the Bruce Springsteen-meets-Metallica ravings of “State Trooper,” Boiled In Lead produces the kind of music that purists love to hate. Those with a more adventurous side will adore it, but absolutely no one can complain that it’s predictable. After blowing out a few amps on the title cut, they segue to a 13/8 Bosnian gadulka tune that features Matt Darriau on saxophone. The piece sounds like mullahs in a jazz-rock club. Then it’s back to some kick-butt rock with buzzy guitar feedback before moving to the deft intro of “Sugarfoot Congress,” and old-timey rag grafted to an Irish reel that mixes Josef Kessler’s solid fiddling, Adam Stemple’s precise mandolin picking, and Robin Anders’ various percussion instruments,
including a touch of tabla.
There’s also “Robin’s Complaint,” a musical retelling of a Jane Yolen feminist fairy tale, while “Bring It Round” and “Hook ‘Em Cow” sound like raunchier versions of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. Yet after
playing fast and loose with genres, Boiled In Lead delivers a straight version of the Bulgarian tune “Neda Voda,” and follows it with an Anders composition that draws on world beat inspirations. Boiled In Lead certainly isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it is always an intriguing brew.
Rhythm Music Magazine
Volume III, Number 10 1994 (October)
By Rob Huffman
Boiled in Lead: Antler Dance
Omnium OMM 2007D
Folk music isn’t pretty: that seems to be the guiding principle of Minnesota’s Boiled in Lead. Sporting a sartorial style that would seem more at home in Outlaw Biker than in RMM, Boiled in Lead have made a career out of heavy rock versions of Celtic and Balkan folk melodies, along with their own specially twisted and usually quite macabre songs. Though their frequent personnel changes and affinity for loud guitars have brought them perilously close to becoming the Spinal Tap of folk-rock, Boiled in Lead’s constant touring has earned them a grassroots following of “Leadheads” that spans the U.S. and Europe. That’s fortunate, because music this weird doesn’t tend to get much radio airplay.
Antler Dance doesn’t mess much with Boiled In Lead’s formula: a few virtuosic instrumentals, some bizarre vocal tracks, and a healthy dose of noise and dissonance. One moment they’re raising hell with the neo-Russian sing-along “Rasputin;” the next they’re mesmerizing with the trance-inducing
Bulgarian tune “Neda Voda.” New member Josef Kessler’s fiddle adds exciting freshness, and is right up front on the Arabic instrumental “Nasrudin.” Their raunchy version of Bruce Springsteen’s “State Trooper,” though, seems a waste of their considerable energy and musicianship. Nonetheless, with
its dark humor, feedback, and percussion like an earthquake in a music store, it could only be Boiled In Lead.
Issue 19, October 1994
By Sean McGhee
Boiled in Lead: Antler Dance (Omnium OMM 2007CD)
Since the absolutely classic Ladle to the Grave in 1989 and the slightly disappointing Orb in 1991, things had been quiet on the B.I.L. front save for the recent Fuck The Circus single a gloriously oddball chaotic thrash. Antler Dance sees this Minneapolis based four piece defiantly returning to form with a sometimes bone-crushing, sometimes manic, sometimes inspired twelve track collection that sees them blending traditional influences from Celtic, country, ethnic, and arabic sources and giving the whole thing a driving rock fueled energy. This is definitely rock’n’reel territory with B.I.L. also talented enough to add oodles of colour courtesy of Josef Kessler’s fiddle and viola. Drew Miller’s electric dulcimer and Adam Stemple’s mandolin, that alongside the standard rock backline produces a pretty much magnificent disc. Like the legend says play loud and give the neighbours a treat!
Boiled In Lead
Antler Dance [Omnium]
Bassist: Drew Miller
Early-’70s Jazz Bass
Bass performance: B+
Overall performance: B+
Begs the question: “File under what?!”
Take strains of traditional folk music from Ireland, Eastern Europe, and America, and then run the whole enchilada through a wah-wah pedal. Oh, add a wacky sense of humor. Whether he’s doubling the stop-heavy melody on “Nasrudin,” providing distorto rumble on Springsteen’s “State Trooper,” or kickin’ out the jams in 13/8 on “Pontiaka,” Miller’s sure-footed support is at the heart of this cross-cultural gumbo. (GI)
!*@# (exclaim magazine)
Toronto, Canada, December 1994
BOILED IN LEAD
For years now, Boiled In Lead have been rattling the cages of folk purists. With Antler Dance they continue placing traditional music in a variety of modern settings, to the extent of even including an e-mail address in their liner notes. To me, this modern approach is welcome. While there’s a need for those who play traditional music in the original ways, we also need those who crank up the amps with tunes from Ireland, Appalachia, Bulgaria and elsewhere — as long as it is done well; which Boiled In Lead does. New fiddler Josef Kessler is like a modern-day Paganini; Adam Stemple plays fine guitar and possesses a deep, dramatic voice. Robin Anders on drums and percussion and Drew Miller on bass, inventively anchor this band which, on Antler Dance, goes in many musical directions. From the steaming, metallic version of the Irish tune “Newry Highwayman,” to their comedic and exceptionally well-played edition of “Rasputin” (you remember Boney M, don’t you?), this is a band that can do it all. Well, almost all – their version of Springsteen’s “State Trooper” isn’t all that edifying over the whole six minutes, and a couple of their originals lack the spirit they need. Still, there are so many moments of inspiration, so many virtuosic displays and so much energy and fun that this is the rocking album that every folk fan needs. And the folking album every rocker needs.
Ohio, January 1995
By Ed Shimborske, Jr.
BOILED IN LEAD Antler Dance (Omnium)
Rating: 4 eyeballs
America’s best unknown band, the USA’s most underrated group…who? Boiled In Lead, that’s who, with four releases under their belt, some radio and TV appearances, plus involvement in plenty of major music festivals, both in the US and internationally. Their latest release Antler Dance, is by far one of the band’s best efforts. So why are they still unknown? Is it because they’re
from Minnesota, is it because they’re on a small label, or is it because they play ethnic music? Lead leader Drew Miller philosophizes that maybe they didn’t tour enough in the past. Whatever the case, I still think radio is afraid to play cultural music, just as people are afraid of trying new music on their own. Probably all these factors assign BiL’s inevitable lack of notoriety. I guess it’s up to all the Leadheads out there to spread the word!
Boiled In Lead blends many different ethnic stylings, and mixes them all together with the members’ different global influences, thus giving the band its’ unique identity. They weave in Irish reels, gypsy Klezmer Mid-Eastern songs, and Appalachian hillbilly ho-downs alongside Bruce covers and disco hits. However, the important thing to remember is, it’s not what they play, but how they play it. BiL keeps a hard edge and raw energy in all that they play, separating them from all the other world and folk genre.
Having followed BiL for many years, I was a little concerned with what
direction the band would follow with a new line-up. Todd Menton, former vocalist, had left the band. Todd possesses a truly great voice and the loss will certainly be missed. Bass and electric dulcimer player, Drew Miller quarterbacks the new team and the band doesn’t seem like they’ve lost anything
in the way of music. He seems to have kept the band in the same direction as their Orb album from 1991, adding an even harder edge to the band…and new singer Adam Stemple seems to be the harder edge. Formerly from the band Cats Laughing, Adam seems to be a covert headbanger. Together with Josef Kessler, BiL’s new fiddle player with fat hair, they seem to thrive on loud feedback and mean riffs. Josef Kessler is to the fiddle what Ian Anderson is to the flute, while Robin “Adnan” Anders, the band’s percussionist, is one of the best drummers I’ve heard in quite a while. He’s fluent in many styles and is the glue that holds BiL together. He has also appeared on the award winning 3 Mustaphas 3 release, Heart of Uncle. Notwithstanding, all four members seem to feed off of one another, with no one personality dominating the sound of the group. They usually spotlight Kessler’s brilliance on fiddle, but he is quick to trade off leads to the other members of the band.
Antler Dance includes songs with regard to English highwaymen, a Dakota cow, loading sixteen tons of coal, and women who grind up men’s hearts. It covers a Springsteen song about a State Trooper and a Boney M international disco hit about a mad Russian Monk. It gives the listener a wide range of
stylings and subject matter to digest — with digestion aided by the all-important hard-edged energy that drives listeners through the whole album, asking for seconds.
I’ve never been much of a Deadhead, but I am proud to say I’ve been a Leadhead for some five odd years and Antler Dance has only cemented my conviction in Boiled In Lead.
By Michael C. Mahan
BOILED IN LEAD
The Minnesota band Boiled In Lead (Robin Anders — keys, percussion; Josef Kessler — fiddles, viola; Drew Miller — bass, dulcimer; and Adam Stemple — guitars, mandolin, voice) have been mixing high electric energy with high-stepping traditional flavors for many years. Antler Dance is one more contribution to a very strong repertoire.
“Pontiaka” captures the joyous refrains of an eastern-European melody and links it with a somewhat jazzy sax solo and rock guitar. “Sugarfoot Congress” is a punkified Irish reel, while the Bulgarian “Neda Voda” successfully mixes the sound of the nomad with the modernist. Many tracks take
traditional folk, country and bluegrass, and infuse them with fuzz guitar and an energy atypical of the genre. For this sound, especially listen to “Walk Through The Door” and “Hook ‘Em Cow.”
But the track is the ribald tale of “Rasputin.” This joyous piece is an acoustic and electric combination of Russian and gypsy music, featuring some incredible fiddle and more fun than you’d know what to do with on your Saturday night.
Boiled In Lead know how to update the traditional, making it accessible to a contemporary “what? Me-listen-to-folk?” audience while never losing track of what makes it traditional in the first place.