Band – Mississippi Bones
Album / Label – Radio Free Conspiracy Theory / Unsigned
Rating – 5.5 / 10

If you’re familiar with our fine city, you know that Mississippi Bones are the gate-keepers when it comes to story-telling. The sovereign of strange, bastards of bizarre and kings of curiosity, this six-headed monster from  HarCo bring a sound unlike anything else you’ll find around town.

After dropping 2600 AD: And Other Astonishing Tales two years ago, the band proved that they could essentially go in any direction when it comes to songwriting. And with that etched into their brains, the band set out to make a concept album so ridiculous that it had to be equally awesome by association.

And thus, Radio Free Conspiracy Theory was born. When you first look at the track listing, you might find yourself a little overwhelmed at the idea of 20 unique offerings, but the band split things down the middle between spoken-word interludes from the garrulous Sheriff Cecil Kotto, who is performing his last call-in show on CCPAR AM 950, based out of Cattaraugus County. Sheriff Kotto was born from author Jonathan Raab’s books, and the album serves as a precursor to his upcoming works of fiction.

Let’s dive right in, shall we? Sheriff Kotto kicks things off by telling you this will be his final broadcast, and he will be making a new TV show replacing it. We get a solid base of reference for how this record will be broken down. A Paranoiac’s Farewell opens the musical side of things with a southern-influence groove lick before singer Jared Collins takes over to tell you his bizarre tale. The song lays the foundation for the rest of the record and keeps your head nodding all the way through.

Kotto returns on Occult Deprogrammers, letting you know just how bonkers he is, as brings Raab into the fold to talk about how Raab has been “misrepresenting” him in his books. Raab tells Kotto that he’s opening a new business venture where they rescue people from cults. Kotto is somewhat apprehensive about listening to this balderdash, but it makes for intriguing listening.

Back cover of album

Blue Beam Dreams is a slower song that features a somewhat devilish harmony of vocal work that you honestly wouldn’t expect from the group if you didn’t know what you had initially signed up for. It’s kind of a silly song, but this is Mississippi Bones we’re talking about. The song features a keyboard solo midway through to compliment the cleanest sounding guitars on the record.

Preacher Jim is Kotto’s next caller, talking about the things that have happened in Little Dixie, Oklahoma since Kotto last visited. After the preacher finishes his phone call, the band tells the tale of Devilry & the Blues in Little Dixie, a song that opens with a much quieter tone with creepy words spoken for the first minute between the sheriff and our female protagonist before the rest of the band kicks in. Devilry has enough chugga-chugga to keep a freight train rolling down the track in Little Dixie, but the song loses some of its luster with the constant back-and-forth conversationalist nature of its lyrics.

Kotto continues his chaotic ramblings on Cattle and Chattle, a skit about how the FDA and the US government are modifying your foods to run your lives. The music continues down the twisted path onGenetic Flashback, a song that lays the sludge down in heavier levels than before. The groove is back, as the band tell a ghoulish, greasy tale straight from behind the butcher’s table. Listen on, if you dare “meat” the cleaver…

Before Kotto can start another conspiracy theory, his broadcast is hijacked by a mysterious overlord on Pirated Signal. After the static and fuzz has died down, we find ourselves transported into Wxxt, a song built around the radio frequency that the sheriff is broadcasting from. After the previous spoken part, it’s almost confusing as to whether the band themselves have been captured and are being forced to make this recording, or whether it really is just a “test” to see if you’re listening out there. Are you really even there?

Scene Selection

Kotto seems unphased and takes another phone call from a cannibalistic heroine working for Corporate Wendingos. 101 Ways to Cook a Human picks up on the gruesome, man-eating side of the Wendigos. At this point on the record you kind of have to take a step back and decide whether you want to listen to the great music, the hyperbolic lyrics or the entire package from the Mississippi Bones. Fortunately, it still sounds pretty good, so it’s definitely worth soldiering through.

Believe It Or Not… well, do I even need to tell you what Kotto is talking about? The next conspiracy to be tackled is The Order of the Night Moose, which is definitely my favorite title of the disc. Unfortunately this isn’t one that quite lives up to its title from a lyrical standpoint, but it sets the table for the preposterousness that follows.

Our next caller is Geoff Joins A Cult. Geoff seems to be a regular caller causing mayhem for the wily sheriff. Ancient Astronauts and Alien Allegories just keeps the nonsense flowing, but it does it with a stronger guitar and bass tone that keeps your toes tapping all the way through. If Volbeat smoked an entire pound of weed, they’d probably churn out a song at this level. Midway through the song the band slows it down and gives you a chance to breathe before unleashing the most sonically pleasing solo they have at their disposal to bring you back to Earth, both figuratively and, hopefully, literally.

The question begs to be asked… How Would You Even Know picks up on a phone call from Kotto’s former deputy, Fields. It seems as though he got too close to something he should not have been investigating. And speaking of comparisons, The Reptiles Are Among Us could have been scooped right out of the New Keepers of the Water Tower’s playbook. Sludgy guitars, shouted vocals, slow grooves, and tales of monsters and beast-men living among us. But who are the reptiles, and how will you know if you’ve been infiltrated? Is your precious Facebook going to keep your safe?

Album credits

If you’re still here reading and listening with me, I congratulate you. This record has truly stretched my brain and, hell, Sheriff Kotto has me believing that maybe some of his theories aren’t so half-cooked. At least, he did until he decided to tell us that the Space Vampire Bastards Must Die. He takes a call from another lady-caller who has been abducted by a mysterious voice on the end of the line.

And, finally, we have the title track to this insane record. With an opening cry of “The people need to know!” the Mississippi Bones but a bow on their efforts. The song runs three minutes before we get an eerie outro piece that seems to disguise itself in the form of a movie preview. Is it a sneak peak for the group’s next set of astonishing tales? Or is it simply the last piece of preposterous goodness from a group known for pushing the envelope for goofy yet groovy rock music? Only time will tell.

I have to tell you; I’ve met the group before and they’re a fascinating bunch of individuals. They don’t mess around when it comes to making great grooves and cool music, but it seems as though they might have overextended themselves on this record. I have no qualms with the sonic punishment, but the amount of time spent listening to Kotto talk makes for a difficult piece to put together.

On one hand, if you skip over the spoken parts, you’re left with a pretty solid disc. But you can’t really have the former without the latter, or else you’re missing out on the entire point of the record. At the end of the day, it’s just so long and seemingly incoherent that one wonders if anyone is actually listening to Kotto’s show.

I will say this – I truly appreciate what the band was going for and what they accomplished with this disc. I’m actually quite curious to read Raab’s books going forward, except then I’ll be missing out on that Mississippi goodness on the back end.

Track Listing

1. Open Air
2. A Paranoiac’s Farewell
3. Occult Deprogrammers
4. Blue Beam Dreams
5. Preacher Jim
6. Devilry & the Blues in Little Dixie
7. Cattle and Chattle
8. Genetic Flashback
9. Pirated Signal
10. Wxxt
11. Corporate Wendingos
12. 101 Ways to Cook a Human
13. Believe It or Not
14. The Order of the Night Moose
15. Geoff Joins a Cult
16. Ancient Astronauts and Alien Allegories
17. How Would You Even Know?
18. The Reptiles Are Among Us
19. Space Vampire Bastards Must Die
20. Radio Free Conspiracy Theory

Mississippi Bones –Ancient Astronauts and Alien Allegories