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MERCURY 8078; APRIL 1948



There is NO WAY this should work… in fact there’s no earthly reason why an aspiring rock act should bother tackling this… and as such there’s no point in even covering such a travesty of music and humor.

So of course that means we’re covering it.

But not to rip it to shreds as you might expect. No, in fact we’re going to be rather kind to The Trenier Twins in this case because we’re saving our slings and arrows for the pop music scene that gave us the original version of this song and laid the groundwork for the overthrow of that decrepit mindset which followed.


Measure You For Size
As we’ve said before The Treniers were always going to be an awkward fit in any pop circles, black or white, because they were natural cut-ups, jokesters, madcaps, call it what you will, but they didn’t take much seriously even though they were both really good singers. They felt their best bet for success was as a hip nightclub act, able to cut across cultural boundaries with humor and showmanship.

But that’s a hard thing to put across on record and The Trenier Twins had yet to find anything that was suited to their natural style while also being quality songs that would have widespread appeal.

This record isn’t it. In fact, this kind of novelty offering is probably what they would’ve been stuck doing had rock ‘n’ roll not exploded over the next year or two and given them the platform they needed to find themselves creatively.

But they had yet to discover their true talents and so they turned to these kind of tunes because that was what was popular, so much so that even in the pop field even the best singers, like The Andrews Sisters, were prone to cutting songs that were silly and often culturally offensive to boot. Whether It’s A Quiet Town (In Crossbone County) is egregiously offensive to rural Americans might be debated, but it IS a musical abomination that not even their vocal talent can save.

In it Danny Kaye portrays the sleepy-eyed hayseed who takes to yelling at the musicians who play too loud (big band style) and later sings in a cracked voice and acts the fool while the girls sing the straight parts of the song – quite well as always – but the whole thing is more a comedy skit (that’s painfully unfunny) than an actual musical record.

Wait… did somebody say “comedy skit”? Excuse me a moment… Paging Cliff and Claude Trenier!!!

You Ain’t Just A Kick
The introduction to both versions is the weakest part, a spoken skit to set the rural scene and let you know that you’re supposed to laugh at it. You’re laughing alright… because it’s so putrid that you can’t imagine anyone thought this nonsense would be appealing.

But when the guffawing stops and the actual singing starts both records pick up, The Andrews Sisters harmonize beautifully on their version, while on the rock take on it The Treniers add a soulful bent to their vocals and though they downplay the humor in the two spoken interjections during this section it actually comes off as funnier because it’s not emphasized at all but rather thrown off casually.

The backing music though is the other key to setting this apart, particularly Don Hill on saxophone giving It’s A Quiet Town In Crossbone County a languid feel that is far removed from the country motif the other tried to incorporate into the jazzy Vic Schoen Orchestra accompaniment, which not surprisingly comes across like oil and water. By contrast Hill’s smoky lines on sax behind The Treniers makes this actually listenable as a musical exercise with Gene Gilbeaux’s piano adding the right amount of percussive rhythm before Hill takes over for a halfway decent solo, a little flighty at the start before it settles into something warm and inviting.

When the brothers return the comedy is ramped up but unlike the pop version where Kaye affected all sorts of jokey accents, yodeling and imitating banjos and jew’s harps, dominating the record for an extended stretch that made it all but unlistenable, Claude Trenier keeps singing perfectly straight throughout it, letting Cliff ad-lib the jokes in between lines, all while Claude never breaks stride. He sounds great, the spoken asides are not completely intrusive, and as a result it remains more of a song than a bad vaudeville number.

Now it’s still not all that funny, if you really crack a smile you’re an easier mark than me, but it’s at least fairly humorous rather than cringe worthy and their delivery of the jokes is helped in great measure by their comfort level with these types of antics they’d honed in their nightclub act.

Who’s Shootin’ At Me?
Is it a great record? Not on your life. Is it even a good record? Well, had they sung the intro straight maybe it’d sneak into the lower end of average but as it is… no, it’d be a stretch to call it “good”, certainly it’s not good for rock ‘n’ roll, but it IS far, far better than the original by Kaye and The Andrews Sisters.

Maybe what stands out about it most in retrospect and why it serves a purpose here to review in spite of its origins… or maybe BECAUSE of it’s origins, is because this helps to definitively show that pop music by 1948 was running low on good ideas. Styles hadn’t changed in so long – and since everybody sang everybody else’s songs there weren’t a lot of ways to carve out your own personal niche – and so after first plundering other parts of the world for material they were now resorting to trying to mock their own countrymen and make it appealing. You can just envision The Andrews Sisters rolling their eyes at this sort of thing in the studio but gamely going along with it because that was what was expected of them.

What makes The Treniers version of It’s A Quiet Town In Crossbone County work much better is that they are in effect sending up that pop version, mocking IT and the entire concept of this ill-conceived novelty rather than trying to mine the thin plot of the song for a few chuckles. In a sense they were doing to the pop originators of this song the very thing that so many pop acts had been doing to their foreign sources all of those years – lampooning it.

In that way The Treniers were representing you, the listener, finding the whole thing to be a joke. If you ARE laughing then you’re laughing with them rather than at them. But really what you’re also laughing at is the further evidence of the creative bankruptcy of pop music the original record represents.

Now obviously this kind of thing wasn’t going to be what turned The Trenier Twins into stars, nor even make them a valued part of the growing rock community, for how much mileage was there in any type of novelty act, but strangely enough it’s probably their best record of the 40’s rock era. Admittedly that’s not a very deep pool of songs of theirs to choose from, but in this we at least see a few signs that they had more to offer than they were being allowed to bring out in an era where the utterly inane pop rendition of this was still considered a good idea by an industry that didn’t realize that a revolution was underway that would render them and everything they stood for culturally irrelevant before long.


(Visit the Artist page of The Trenier Twins for the complete archive of their records reviewed to date)