Wednesday, Mar. 23, 2011

The David Wax Museum

You gotta love a band whose signature instrument is the jawbone of an ass. A few songs into a set by Boston-based the David Wax Museum at an SXSW party, Suz Slezak, the player of said jawbone (an Afro-Peruvian instrument called a quijada) and the band's fiddler-vocalist, asked the audience to form a circle. The band members — including a guest accordion player — unplugged their instruments, walked down from the stage and sang a gospel number among the crowd. A hush fell over the bar as partygoers discovered what was going on and bent their ears to listen. This is something the band has done at other shows, but at SXSW, where there are amplifiers blaring every 10 yards, it seemed refreshingly spontaneous and awfully sweet.

The rest of the (amplified) set showed why David Wax and his Americana band have been getting so much attention lately. The Harvard-educated bandleader spent a lot of time in Mexico, and studied its traditional music on a fellowship. Combining son Mexicano with American folk, the Museum creates a joyful Mexo-Americana fusion, with virtuosic musical skill and virtuous harmonies.