I’ve made no secret of my appreciation for the art of Ray Troll. I love both his illustrations (as in his Cruisin’ series with Dr. Kirk Johnson) and the music he creates along with Russel Wodehouse and The Ratfish Wranglers. Troll has an almost completely unique style in the paleoart community, so I found myself intrigued when I came across a post by paleontologist Billie Guerrero on Instagram (@token_dinosaur_friend), discussing her recent interview with Ray Hedgpeth of The Amoeba People. As I scrolled through the pictures, I saw that they had recently released an album entitled The Fossil Record, with cover art by drummer Dustin Jordan that gave me serious Ray Troll vibes. I knew right away I had to check these guys out!
I soon discovered that in addition to the music, Ray Hedgpeth also hosted a delightful tie-in show called The Amoeba People Podcast. Each episode begins with a discussion on how the band wrote and created a particular song, which then leads in to an interview with an expert in the relevant topic at hand. The first episode features the song Coprolites, with a discussion on the eponymous dino dung by Dr. Tony Fiorillo of the Perot Museum; while the second episode features the song Volcano!, as well as vulcanologist Dr. Arianna Soldati. (Incidentally, playing THE BIG DIE while listening to “Volcano!” makes for a flipping awesome experience!) But most exciting for me, the most recent episode features Ray Troll, discussing his career path and the special role he plays in science communication as an artist. And yes, the TrollArt vibes of The Fossil Record‘s album cover are referenced. I won’t say too much more about the podcast, other than that it’s great fun to listen to, and you should check it out for yourself! Hedgpeth is an entertaining host, and knows how to keep things lively during the show. (If you can’t download the podcast on your preferred apps, you can always listen in on The Amoeba People’s official YouTube page.)
So that’s the podcast; now what about the music? Well, I don’t know that I make for the most impartial listener, since I’m a huge paleontology nerd with eccentric musical tastes, but I will say haven’t enjoyed any one band this much in ages! The music itself is fun to listen to, and the lyrics are to die for if you’re a geologically inclined individual like myself. I’ll start with sharing the official music video for Girl Talk, a musical biography of Marie Tharpe and her discovery of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge rift valley, which proved instrumental in winning over scientists to the theory of continental drift. (Also consider checking out their song on Alfred Wegener, the first scientist to seriously propose the idea of continental drift. Coincidentally, not one but two children’s books about Marie Tharp were published not long after The Amoeba People released their album, so consider checking out Marie’s Ocean and Ocean Speaks if you’d like to learn more about her!)
Girl Talk is probably the most “typical” song of The Amoeba People that I’ll share here. While very eclectic in style, they generally rest somewhere in the general category rock music, but as it happens, my four favorites all happen to fall somewhere more in the categories of “Folk” or “Country/Western”. Just for fun, let’s start with the raucous, tongue-twisting drinking song dedicated to geologist James Hutton and paleontologist Mary Anning. Just try to sing along, and see if you don’t end up laughing your head off at your failure to do so instead!
I’ve mentioned my love of the Grand Canyon before, in the context of my review of Jason Chin’s “Grand Canyon” (still one of my personal favorite posts I’ve written). While certainly not as bombastically grandiose as Ferde Grofé’s Grand Canyon Suite, The Amoeba People still manage to deliver a fitting tribute with their energetic song, Heigh Ho Grand Canyon, which always brings to my mind the image of a cowboy racing his horse along the canyon rim.
Our next song brings us deeper into western style music, with The Ballad of Barnum Brown. Another musical biography of an important scientist, this song heavily recalls the classic cowboy song Ghost Riders in the Sky, a very fitting tone to strike for the man who discovered Tyrannosaurus rex!
The final song on my list is actually the first one I listened to. As soon as I saw the title Geologic Folk Song Medley, I had a feeling it would end up being on of my favorites. I went to sleep as a child listening to our cassette tape of the best of The Sons of the Pioneers, and with such a deep nostalgic memory rooted in my brain, my fossilized heart just about melted with joy when I listened a geologically themed song that felt like it could have fit right in with my childhood favorites.
I’ve had lots of fun listening to The Amoeba People, whether their podcast or just their music. With their entertaining and informative music, I consider them a must-listen for any fossil fanatics out there! If you haven’t listened to them yet, go do that now! (Note, I’ve linked to their Amazon listings in this post for my own convenience, but they’re also available on iTunes as well.) I’m proud to give The Amoeba People my enthusiastic Dino Dad Stomp of Approval!