Music

Hear Punch Brothers Take Aim at Capitol Hill With New Song ‘Jumbo’

Josh Goleman

The New York-based Punch Brothers‘ “Jumbo,” a standout track from new album All Ashore (Nonesuch Records), blends the social consciousness of folk revivalists with the old-time sound of string bands and the vocal melodies of bluegrass family groups.

The ramshackle, acoustic guitar-driven tune accompanies snarky, thinly veiled political commentary. Think Elvis Costello at his saltiest. Regardless of a listener’s political views, it’s a clever song that’s more similar to past Nashville rebels’ wordplay than any of the indie-friendly or folk-honoring acts you’d normally compare to the Punch Brothers.

Mandolinist Chris Thile, fiddler Gabe Witcher, banjo player Noam Pikelny, guitarist Chris Eldridge and bassist Paul Kowert self-produced the album in Los Angeles. It’s the band members’ first release since 2015’s T Bone Burnett-produced The Phosphorescent Blues.

In a press release, Thile calls the album “a meditation on committed relationships in the present day, particularly in light of the current unsettled political climate—certainly the most unsettled one that anyone in the band has ever experienced. We were hoping we could create a thing that would be convincing as a complete thought, sort of a nine-movement or a nine-song thought, even though it’s rangy in terms of what it’s talking about and in the characters doing the talking.”

Beyond “Jumbo,” All Ashore features the underappreciated laborer in “The Gardener,” the mysterious single “The Angel of Doubt,” the introspective “Like It’s Going Out of Style.” an instrumental jam named for the Tiki cocktail “Three Dots and a Dash” and another politicized statement in “All Part of the Plan.”

“Jumbo” Lyrics

Well, here comes Jumbo with a phone in his hand
Bet it’s been a while since you seen a real man
Grown up strong on the fat of the land of the free

Sure, I guess he got off to a hell of a start
With his grandpa’s money and his daddy’s heart
But you oughta know privileged is a pretty hard thing to be
You know?

Whoa, here comes Jumbo with a knife and a tan
And an elephant’s tail for his Instagram
Grown up brave on the fat of the land of the free

See the twinkle in his eye like a torch in the dark
On a court-approved stroll through the city park
Whistling which of you purebreds gonna bark at my theme song
Goes a little something like

Here comes Jumbo
American as gumbo
Skin white as new corn liquor hair black as molasses rum, though
He ain’t dumb, no
You elitist bums, go
Get yourselves off of Capitol Hill
‘Cause we’ve just about had our fill
Of y’all playing Columbo

When anyone can tell
That good old Jumbo
Was only to trying to help
Only trying to help
Oh, help us out with one now Jumbo

Here comes Jumbo
American as gumbo
Washed in the blood of the little man singing fee fi fo fum, bro
‘Til his kingdom comes so
You elitist bums can go
Fuck yourselves off of Capitol Hill
‘Cause we’ve just about had our fill
Of wondering what is and isn’t rigged
When there’s all these unadopted kids
Ready to swim across the Bering Sea
To feast on the fat of the land of the free
They’re twiddling their thumbs though
While y’all play Columbo
With poor old Jumbo

Now Watch: Songs from the 2000s That Will Become Country Classics

recommended for you

Hear Punch Brothers Take Aim at Capitol Hill With New Song ‘Jumbo’