All I Got's Done Gone
Listening to San Francisco-based American roots duo Skillet Licorice, you can’t help but be transported to another time and place. A time before internet, cell phones, TVs - when live music played on real instruments was the main form of entertainment and an indispensable part of any social gathering. Skillet Licorice channels these uninhibited and adventurous sounds of long ago with great love and care on their self-titled debut, reveling in the lost waltzes, serenades, and square dance reels of another era. Listening to their rollicking fiddle lines and deftly strummed guitar, legendarily wild string bands of the 1920s and 30s come to mind. Skillet Licorice captures the raw vibrancy of those groups, with all the sense of fun and raucousness they represented. This music has been carried into our century via the research of scholars and collectors - but one thing that is often lost in transference is the fact that this music was the soundtrack of the party, designed to get you up and dancing until the sun rises. Elise Engleberg and Matt Knoth bring that sense of unabashed joy to the music of Skillet Licorice.
Elise Engleberg grew up studying classical violin in Lexington, Kentucky, playing in the school orchestra, and later in rock clubs around town. Discovering bluegrass after moving to San Francisco led her down the slippery slope to old-time music and then to the howling Georgia string band, The Skillet Lickers, the hardest working variety band of the Deep South. The Skillet Lickers played not only breakdowns and squares, but also waltzes and popular tunes of the day. Elise embodies their versatility as well as the sheer fun and reckless abandon of the fiddling in her playing.
Elise’s musical collaborator and husband, Matt Knoth, plays guitar and banjo in a perfect compliment to Elise's fiddling. Matt's father was a popular Northern California radio DJ known as Cuzin’ Al who hosted a weekly bluegrass radio broadcast while Matt was growing up. Matt’s parents even had a bluegrass band that featured his father on banjo and his mother on guitar. An early introduction to Western Swing innovators The East Texas Serenaders changed his life. "From the first time I heard the tune “Babe” I knew I wanted to play that music - it sounds deliberate, composed and orchestrated in a way that most Americana isn't,” Matt says. Matt and Elise met on a cross-country road trip to Clifftop, West Virginia’s Appalachian String Band Festival, forging a musical and romantic partnership that’s now celebrating their ninth wedding anniversary! In addition to their work together in Skillet Licorice, Matt and Elise are also known for their work with seminal West Coast stringbands like The Mercury Dimes, the Crooked Jades, and the Black Crown Stringband, where they dominated the West Coast stringband circuit and made a name for themselves playing “post-ironic urban traditional music.”
If you find yourself searching for great music made today that echoes the string band music of a bygone era - music that respects the source with a sense of care and authenticity while still embodying the spirit of adventure that made those early string bands so popular and influential in the first place – then clear the furniture, roll up the rug, uncork the bottle and get ready to dance and party to the music of Skillet Licorice. Let Elise and Matt take you back to a time when people still knew how to create their own entertainment and would dance all night with a fiddle in their hand - just don't forget to save the fiddler a dram!