by Shay Quillen; April 14, 2004
For a living, breathing embodiment of what Greil Marcus called “the old, weird America,” check out Baby Gramps tonight at the Espresso Garden in San Jose.
Gramps attacks old-time music with a warped gusto that calls to mind the Holy Modal Rounders, crossed with a really wired Utah Phillips. He accompanies his own Captain Beefheart-esque voice with some nimble fingerpicking on an old National steel guitar.
The repertoire is pre-World War II blues and hillbilly, nonsense poetry, bizarre humor, audience participation, and wild play with words and rhythms. It’s not for the faint of heart, but remember — just one Baby Gramps show will provide as much entertainment as any five regular concerts.