last working Southern black minstrel

Abner Jay: Sexuality in a Different Key by James belflower

Abner Jay  courtesy of  Charlie Vinz

Abner Jay courtesy of Charlie Vinz

Walter Benjamin said that there is no better trigger for thinking than laughter. Abner Jay, the self-proclaimed "last working southern black minstrel," takes this to heart on his album One Man Band when he asks such urgent questions as "What do you give an elephant with diarrhea? Answer, plenty of room!" Giggling at the moral ruts we often find ourselves in, Abner alternates short immoral anecdotes and one-liners about suicide by train, marriage, child rearing, venereal disease, The Vietnam War, Australia, rock n' roll, virility pills, bestiality, military history, cocaine use, along with jokes that both reinforce and swerve to critique the sexual assumptions they chew on. What I love about One Man Band is that although it is not quite in the goofy exotica genre, it maintains a comic drift between the sexual repression and the hyper sexism often associated with bible thumping movements. His scope of innuendo is impressive, but it is the odd and poetic stories between songs that trigger a downright awkward but self-reflexive chuckle, amplified by his bluesy bends.

Three highlights from this album: VD, I'm A Hard Working Man, and Wee Wee. VD is hilariously contaminated with the dangers of the "pre-honeymoon" in Abner's  impassioned diatribe against the dangers of sex before marriage. I'm A Hard Working Man grunts its way through a fusion of blues and eroticism (I'm still unsure which), and Wee Wee finishes by crooning us back to those wonderful days when urination was a pleasure in itself.

In the extended vein of early self-titled Scott Walker recordings and The Frogs' Made Up Songs, the iconoclastic Abner Jay is a performer who implicitly and explicitly mocks himself, along with poking at the normativity of male heterosexuality. Plucking, thumping, and inveighing, his humor and music provoke laughter as the initial stage of critique. He causes us to reconsider what can be done about those "TUUUUUUUURRRRRRRIBLE things" that may happen when you're caught "putting your things together!"

See more biographical information about Abner Jay here.

The Last Ole Minstrel Abner Jay plays his last gig at the Grassroots Festival in Trumansburg, New York.