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Get your mind out of the gutter

Get ye to Jazzbones for a a Celtic/pop/bluegrass/rock hoe down

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The name Clumsy Lovers has nothing to do with accidental intercourse or sloppy bedroom technique; it came from a song written for bagpipes. You thought it was something else?

Chris Jonat, bass player and main songwriter of Clumsy Lovers, explains, “When we first started, we had a piper in the band and ‘The Clumsy Lover’ was one of the first tunes we played.”

But one of the band’s more recent songs explains what it means in a more touching, if less accurate, fashion. The song, “This Clumsy Love” says, “OK, I can’t, it’s true. I fail to explain how I feel. I submit that only proves that this is real. There is no finer love, no genuiner love, no more diviner love, then clumsy love.”

I think everyone would agree that love can make you feel a little less graceful sometimes. This is a band that is absolutely in love with playing music. Maybe that explains some of the quirky dance moves I witnessed while watching some live clips of the band on YouTube. Their musicianship, however, is anything but clumsy.

If this story is your first exposure to the Vancouver, B.C., band Clumsy Lovers, you need to know that it’s roots music with an attitude. Clumsy Lovers is a “raging” bluegrass, Celtic, pop, Afro-Cuban, country rock band powered by mandolin, banjo, fiddle, acoustic guitar, bass and drums. It’s almost as if a rock band dropped its electric guitars and synthesizers and replaced them with folk instruments, and then began to play them as fast and furiously as they possibly could, while laughing, dancing and flirting with the audience.

The songs are laden with irony, pop sensibilities, and an infusion of fun that, I’m told, can only truly be appreciated during a live performance.

If you haven’t been properly welcomed yet into the trans-genre territory of fusion music then the Clumsy Lovers’ poppy harmonies, sardonic Barenaked Ladies-style lyrics, infectious energy and fiery tempo could be your perfect introduction.

I don’t envy record store managers attempting to place their album, though. The Clumsy Lovers seventh CD, Smart Kid (Nettwerk Records), with its 15 genre-defying tracks, stubbornly refuses to settle into one section. Is it Rock/Pop, Adult Alternative, Roots, World/Reggae, Bluegrass, Polka, Folk-Rock or Celtic? 

They’ve been compared to The Pogues, The Corrs, Polkacide, The Duhks, Nickel Creek, Bruce Springstein, The Monkees and even the Eagles.

“This past year I was inspired by Springsteen’s album of Pete Seeger songs, because it sounded so fresh and so rooted in tradition at the same time,” explains Jonat.

When fiddler Andrea Lewis takes her turn at the mic, the sound of her voice has been compared to Blondie of all things, but to me her sweet voice recalls indie-goddess Jenny Lewis of Rilo Kiley.

The full band lineup includes Jonat on bass guitar and vocals; Lewis on fiddle and vocals; Gord Robert on drums; and Trevor Rogers on vocals, guitar, harmonica and percussion.

Clumsy Lovers has toured extensively for the last 10 years boasting over 1,500 live shows.

“I think when you tour as much as we do (up to 300 days a year some years), you come to see that everybody’s a wacko from time to time,” says Jonat.

The band’s MySpace has a nice road diary that ushers the reader through a behind-the-scenes look at touring.

“Some people make the mistake of thinking of being on the road as a vacation,” says Jonat. “It’s work. It’s a great job, but definitely a lousy vacation.”

Jonat says what he’s most looking forward to right now is summertime.

This is a band that really shines at festival performances; enticing entire families to dance and twirl together. The band members also enjoy summer because they get to play Frisbee together at rest stops, not worry about putting chains on their van, and, best of all, they can enjoy longer hours of sunlight.

This week Clumsy Lovers will seduce patrons at Jazzbones. Let’s hope they brought roadies to handle the heavy lifting.

[Jazzbones, Saturday, April 7, 9 p.m., $10, 2803 Sixth Ave., Tacoma, 253.396.9169]

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