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GOD'S LITTLE MONKEYS (Buy CDs by this artist)
New Maps of Hell! (Alias) 1989

To compete in the global village, today's self-respecting skiffle group has to have more up its sleeve than an enthusiastic rendition of "Rock Island Line." Besides a strong streak of radical politics, God's Little Monkeys — an acoustic/electric quartet (formerly known as Malcolm's Interview) from York, England — demonstrates a wonderfully broad stylistic reach on the excellent New Maps of Hell!, following an old standard like "Pay That Money Down" with the African-styled chanting of "Hangman Botha," and grouping the a cappella folk of "Sea Never Dry" with the Billy Bragg-styled "Where Were You?" and the Poguesy rock of "Tory Heart." Elsewhere, taking good advantage of tradition while ignoring restrictions on what musical regions are open to them, the group delves into rock and other styles, all led by the rich vocals of guitarist Jon Townend and keyboardist Jo Swiss.

[Ira Robbins]