The Groanbox Boys are the American duo, Cory Seznec and Michael Ward-Bergeman. The two play their own original brand of foot-stompin’, sweat-drippin’-from-the-ceiling old time blues, folk, rags, and minstrel songs on accordion, acoustic guitar, banjo (gourd and open-backed), piano, harmonica and odd pieces of percussion including the self-made "freedom boot".
At the core of the ‘Groanbox ethos’ is a desire to play stylistically like musicians of the early twentieth century, but also do precisely what they did: play folk music their own way, putting their hearts and souls into it and all their idiosyncrasies as well!
Smokestack Trilogy was recorded in a 1930s art deco concert hall in Harefield Hospital, which is nestled in the English countryside an hour and half outside London. Several three-day trips from London out to the hospital were made accompanied by sound designer, The Amazing Rolo. Seldom used, the hall's haunting, vestigial quality was deeply inspiring to them for what it symbolized: a glimpse into a seemingly bygone era that is, like the music they play, still very much alive. So, the three stalwart chaps set up camp at Harefield, consumed much caffeine, performed many handstands, filmed some spoofs on Broadway musicals, slept on beds made of conference chairs, and somehow managed to record a bunch of tunes.
The fifteen songs on the album grew out of the 'Groanbox spirit', which is incarnated in their mystical freedom boot and channeled through Cory and Michael, mere vessels of this strange force. Fourteen of the tracks are original compositions containing tales of trains, sea captains with scurvy, suicide, African princesses, the yearning for home, love vs. lust from the viewpoint of a convicted criminal facing a life sentence, and Bolivian fauna. The three short 'Harefield' songs were composed on the spot, two of which feature the beautifully out of tune antique upright piano abandoned backstage. The 'cover' track, "I'm Mississippi Bound" by the Delmore Brothers, was chosen for its simple, ethereal beauty, and was recorded at 4 am. If you listen closely, you can hear birds chirping.