The Hoover Uprights. You’re probably slapping your forehead right about now and saying, “Man, why didn’t I think of that as a band name?” Well, you didn’t. They’re the Hoover Uprights, and you’re not. I was looking for a special significance or meaning of the name, so I went to the source and consulted the album notes of their CD, “Known For Their Reputation”–“The band’s name, which came to Kevin one day while cleaning house, had no special significance or meaning.” I figured that about covered it, but then I read on, and it became crystal clear–“…it was the only suggested name that nobody hated.” ‘Nuf said? Definitely ‘nuf.
It takes courage to name a band after a vacuum cleaner, you’d have to agree. I mean, the first sentence of any negative review is so obvious, you’re not even allowed to think it. No! Don’t! We’ll just eliminate that thought and back slowly away. And the other issue that comes up is the reaction of the Hoover Company to the band’s gratuitous use of their brand to piggyback to fame, fortune, and free disposable bags on the strength of decades of their success in eliminating lint. But surprise, surprise, instead of a multi-dollar lawsuit, The Company “printed a story about the band in the Hoover News”, their in-house corporate newspaper. Bullet dodged, and then, presumably, vacuumed up.
So who are the Hoover Uprights, exactly? Well, on the CD insert, there’s a convenient diagram identifying each band member with his/her instrument and the part of the Hoover they’re each identified with. Clockwise from the top: Bill Schmidt–fiddle, banjo, vocals, handle with cord clip; Kate Brett, banjo, filter bag door; Kevin Enoch, banjo-uke, resonator uke, baritone uke, guitar, bass, furniture guard; John Schwab, guitar, agitator brush cover; and Dave Rice, harmonica, wand with hose and tools.
Here’s what’s on this excellent CD: Rip Van Winkle; In Come A Little Bee/Stumptailed Dolly; Lazy Kate; Sally Ann; Give Me Back My 15 Cents; Paddy On The Turnpike; Rye Straw; Ozark Waltz; Purcell’s Reel; The Wolf Is At The Door; Old Melinda; Texas Quickstep; Wild Goose Chase; Ida Red; Irish Reel; Grey Eagle; Devil Ate The Groundhog; Nothing Goes Hard; Vincent Crawford’s Tune/Richmond Cotillion; Wild Hog In The Woods; Shoo Fly.
CD Baby is where you get this gem, and from one of the reviews there, “The singing is soulful. The arrangements are tasteful and tempt you to pick up your own instrument and play along.” I can second that myself, having learned “Rip Van Winkle” and “Vincent Crawford’s Tune” shortly after I first listened to them.
Some interesting stuff: Their version of “Shoo Fly” has a B part that sounds like it just HAS to be crooked, but isn’t. If you can count to 16, you can prove it to yourself. “The Wolf Is At The Door” is the only song I know that mentions the big three topics of old-time music: chickens, the IRS, and Little Red Riding Hood. “Ida Red” is played at a gently rolling tempo (often it’s much faster) that almost turns it into a different tune, but just as appealing. “Give Me Back My 15 Cents” is only one great example of how Dave Rice’s harmonica adds so much to the pastiche, and yet, somehow, it doesn’t even sound French.
The sources mentioned in the album notes are all over the old-time map, from the familiar (Uncle Dave Macon, Snake Chapman, Doc Roberts, etc.) to the sublimely obscure (The Morrison Twin Brothers String Band, The Binkley Brothers Dixie Clodhoppers, Flick Flaharty, among others). With all these references, you’ll have some fine Googlin’ ahead of you.
The album title appears to be an homage to a sign just barely visible in the cover photo in the front window of a dry cleaners shop somewhere that reads, “Our Reputation Is Known”. Tautology as art form.
It’s sound clip time. Click below for snippets of “Rip Van Winkle” and “Lazy Kate” and then hustle out and vacuum up this album.