It was a cold, cold morning in Bigfoot County. I was brewing some coffee on an old pot belly stove, when Ol’ Trapper Pete came by with a oilskin parcel from the Gold Country.

Inside the parcel I found an old book, a quantity of dried herbs, and what appeared to be a wax phonograph cylinder. I bid Ol’ Trapper Pete farewell, put down my coffee and settled back into my rocker on the porch. I examined the curious old book and discovered that it was indeed, the journal of my Great-Uncle Philo “Broken Arrow” Jones, famous Frontiersman and Adventurer.

The Edison cylinder was inscribed with the mysterious words “MOONALICE.”

Could it be? Could it be that my Great Uncle Philo had discovered the mystical Tribe of Moonalice? My heart pounded in my chest and my mind raced as I eagerly flipped through the pages of the journal…

From the Frontier Journal of Philo “Broken Arrow” Jones, Adventurer

“I have made contact with the nomadic Moonalice tribe. They were wary of me at first, but they invited me to their camp.

Amidst the Redwood Giants, beneath an expanse of stars in an ink black sky, they shared their fire with me. I sat with them as Chubby Wombat Moonalice and Hardwood Moonalice told me the ancient legends of the Moonalice tribe.

After we had partaken of their sweet, sweet, ceremonial pipe, the members of the tribe began to assemble at the trunk of the largest tree and played their mystical songs into the warm evening…”

I read on. The prohibition of hemp and the encroachment of the modern world had laid waste to their entire culture and the tribe had been scattered into nomadic clans. I was sure that Uncle Philo had probably joined their ranks. I was grateful that he had been able to capture the tribe’s mystical songs and send them to me.

I threw the cylinder onto the uh…cylinder-playing device of the time, andÁ‚  those strange and vibrant beats and melodies filled my little shack.

As I listened, I read further in the journal…

The Tribe of Moonalice consists of the following sacred elders –

Hardwood Moonalice
also called G.E. Smith Á¢€” bass, guitars, vocals

JÁƒ©sus H. Moonalice
also called Barry Sless Á¢€” bass, guitar, pedal steel, vocals

Sir Sinjin Moonalice
also called Pete SearsÁ¢€” bass, keyboards, accordion, vocals

Blue Moonalice
also called Ann McNamee Á¢€” bass, percussion, vocals

Chubby Wombat Moonalice
also called Roger McNameeÁ¢€” bass, guitar, vocals

DawnMan Moonalice
also called Jimmy Sanchez Á¢€” bass and drums

and there was another, obscured by the shadow of the world-tree,
Yggdrassil Moonalice, also called Jack Casady…”

All right, so if you don’t know the Moonalice Legend, you can learn all about it here. Or, here’s the CliffsNotes version:

“Moonalice is a band of seasoned players exploring new musical territory with a passion. GE Smith (Saturday Night Live, Bob Dylan), Jack Casady (Jefferson Airplane, Hot Tuna), Pete Sears (Jefferson Starship, Rod Stewart), Barry Sless (Phil Lesh & Friends, David Nelson Band), Ann & Roger McNamee (Flying Other Brothers), and Jim Sanchez (Dr. John, Boz Scaggs) conjure up a heady brew of roots, rock, rhythm-and-blues, and more, peppered with spirited doses of improvisation and surprise. A perfect example of the proverbial whole being greater than the sum of its parts, Moonalice turns it collective body of experience, ace musicianship, great songs, and love of adventure into live performances as distinct as they are compelling.”

Thankfully, their new album is not on a scratchy-sounding wax cylinder, it’s actually produced by the legendary T Bone Burnett, and it has been engineered and forged to sound as warm and crisp as a campfire at night. You can get it directly from the band with a bonus DVD.

Moonalice came on the scene in 2007 and have been on the road ever since. For those who have seen their jammy blend of roots, rock and blues in concert, the album may be quite a surprise: there’s 11 solid tracks here. Each one is concise and tightly structured — very different from the band’s extended road grooves. That’s not a bad thing. Moonalice’s vast well of talent shines through in each song and makes for one catchy and enjoyable disc.

Once upon a time, the term “Bay Rock” (as popularized by the old Relix Bay Rock Shop line of compilation CDs) might have applied here. There’s a “sweet home San Francisco” vibe here to be sure, but these aren’t Marin county veterans jamming at their local watering hole or farmer’s market. There’s no empty nostalgia here. Nothing feels forced or lame. They may have captured a certain zeitgeist in their beautifully designed posters and handbills, but the music is fresh, honest and true.

You can check out samples from the album, as well as live tracks HERE as well as their Live Music Archive page over HERE and there’s also lots of fun to be had at their YouTube channel. You can hear them rip on a mean cover of “Sugaree.” They’re also lined up for their first Bonnaroo appearance next month.

Moonalice – “Dance Inside the Lightning”

Moonalice – “Dusty Streets of Cairo”

Without any further didgeridoo, I am damn happy to announce the first ever Test of the Boomerang CD giveaway! The first five people to ship me a case of Bell’s Two Hearted Ale will receive a free copy of Moonalice.

Actually, I’m pretty sure that’s illegal and if you’re buying me a case of Bell’s then I guess you may as well buy your own copy of the Moonalice CD. It’s just that I can’t get Bell’s in this state and, well, anyway, how about this? The first five people to send an email to ben AT popdose DOT com with the subject line “Moonalice CD” and your mailing address, by gum, I’ll send you a copy of Moonalice’s debut. Some restrictions apply, and the offer is only good for the kind folks of the continental United States and good ol’ Canada.

Next week it’s more Northern California goodies with the sweet sounds of Izabella’s new album and an interview with guitarist Sean Lehe.

Keep those care packages and kind words coming, kids, and stayyyyyy in touch!

About the Author

Ben Wiser

Test of the Boomerang is an in-depth exploration of some of the best material found on the Live Music Archive.

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