There is a growing sub-genre in rock music, a sort of postmodern hippie soundtrack performed by bands whose musical antecedent is most obviously the Grateful Dead. But the bands also bring into their music elements of Marley's melodic and socially conscious reggae, Dylan's parables, the earnest straightforwardness of Springsteen and Midnight Oil, Little Feat's gumbo, and harmless funky party music. Let's call it "Gumby" music. Practitioners include New Potato Caboose, the Subdudes and Little Women.
It was Little Women, Thursday night at the Bayou, that had them doing that marionette dance you see at Grateful Dead concerts; let's just call it the Gumby dance. The all-male band from Oregon played solid, simple grooves for two hours, mixing originals with reggaefied Dylan ("She Belongs to Me" and "Like a Rolling Stone"), Aerosmith's "Sweet Emotion" and Lucinda Williams's "I'll Change the Locks," which had nice slide guitar playing by Steven James.
The most straight-ahead number was "Montana," a rocker in the Mellencamp mode. The Cougar comparison is made more inevitable by lead singer Jerry Joseph's cigarettes-and-whiskey voice, which seems to convey some hard-learned truths. Most of the other songs were slow reggae tunes, the best being "Life's Just Bitchin'," a depressing song about "surfing, heroin and suicide," with some impressive dynamics. All the songs were too long (most were well over seven minutes), revealing the Women's bar-band bloodlines, and the tone veered toward the preachy a bit too often not to get tiresome. With its influences so evident, Little Women needs to work especially hard to define its own sound if it wants to expand its audience past the Gumby crowd.