Twelve years and five studio albums down the line, Californographic singer-songwriter Maurice Tani presents something different.
During the winter of 2009-10, Tani and 77 El Deora bassist Mike Anderson began playing a series of under-the-radar shows as a duo using the pseudonym “Briggs & Stratton,” preparing material for what eventually became the band's "Hell Yeah! Turn It Down!" acoustic sets. This was a complete deconstruction and re-envisioning of much of the band's repertoire for more intimate, listener-friendly venues. They stripped the songs down to the most essential elements: lyric and melody accompanied by just acoustic guitar and bass. The idea was to use the resulting skeleton arrangements as a base to add back in the rest of the band sparingly for the HY!TID! sets. But along the way, the often expected unexpected happened. They found that the minimalist treatment gave the material a new identity and audience of it's own.
“Two Stroke” is an album of acoustic duos and trios reflecting that process. The title is a nod to both mechanical efficiency, and the initial efforts under their affectionate use of the Briggs & Stratton™ banner*. As with the previous studio albums, Tani & Anderson are joined here by a batch of excellent musicians, but generally just one, (sometimes none), at a time. The instrumentation is all acoustic (with the exception of David Phillips' pedal steel, and the goal was to capture as live a feel as possible.
Much of the material on “Two Stroke” comes from Tani’s previous 77 El Deora studio recordings but these versions stand in sharp contrast to the highly produced arrangements on the earlier albums. However, the difference these renditions have with their predecessors doesn’t end there. Many of these songs were also originally written for and sung by female vocalists, most notably Tani’s muse and sparring partner, Jenn Courtney. Here, he takes them back and makes them his own again.
In addition to the more familiar material, there is also a fat handful of other gems done in the “Two Stroke” style. They’re a diverse collection ranging from Stephen Foster’s 1881 song, Hard Times Come Again No More to George Harrison’s I Need You.
Here’s the proof. Less is more! Hell yeah! Turn it DOWN!