Hayseed Dixie 'grass up Queen, Kiss and Motörhead with aplomb. While 'Let There Be...
Richard Banks 2004
Legend has it that several years ago, Mr. Barley Scotch (Hayseed Dixie's cheekily-monikered frontman) was blessed with a musical epiphany that he thought would change the lives of hillbillies in Deer Lick Holler, Appalachia forever. He was struck by the realization that Hank Williams' infamous "Lost Highway" and AC/DC's "Highway To Hell" might in fact be the very same road. And at that moment, a musical fusion of enormous cultural significance took place. It was, he claims, as if the good Lord Himself had proclaimed, "Let There Be Rockgrass!"
Ever since, the blending of hard rock and cotton-pickin' bluegrass has been Hayseed Dixie's raison d'être. Their debut long-player, A Hillbilly Tribute to AC/DC (2001) proved more popular than anyone had expected, selling over 100,000 copies in the US. This, their fourth studio release, brings some of their best material from the past three years together with a few new songs. It's a greatest hits record that will reward long-term rockabilly devotees even as it enthrals those who are new to all things Nashville. Their superb, breakneck ('redneck', you might say) version of "I Believe In A Thing Called Love" will certainly entice a new generation of rockers.
On the whole, the blending of rock and bluegrass works remarkably well. While Barley takes care of guitar and fiddle duties, the Reno brothers provide hillbilly harmonies alongside some frantic mandolin and banjo fretwork. Amazingly, all instruments on the album are acoustic, recorded, they boast, "with absolutely no EQ whatsoever, the way the good Lord intended". The resulting sound captures all the warmth of power-chord rock with none of the distortion, thereby revealing the band's precision musicianship. The solos are hilarious and awesome in equal measures, as is the bulk of the album; just over three minutes into Bad Company's "Feel like Making Love", Scotch pulls off a feat of fret-tapping that any metal-head would be proud of.
But it's the older AC/DC covers that work best and there's five of them here, three of which are live (complete with yeehaa-happy crowd). Of these, "You Shook Me All Night Long" would be a welcome addition to any barn dance. Elsewhere, the band 'grass up Queen, Kiss and Motörhead with aplomb. While Let There Be Rockgrass rests in unashamedly tongue-in-cheek territory throughout, it remains an amusing and refreshing record. Definitely one to pull out at a party.