Album Reviews

Hayseed Dixie – A Hot Piece Of Grass

(Cooking Vinyl) UK release date: 27 June 2005

OK, roll up, roll up! Get yerself a bottle �o bourbon and listen upy’all, as these here kings of bluegrass banjo – oh I’m sorry that’s’rockgrass’ to you good folks – well they sure as hell have excelledthemselves this time. So you all thought they was jus’ a tribyute bandrippin’ off them classic rock bands like AC/DC, like Kiss (seeKiss My Grass), and diddlin’ around with dat Aerosmith classicWalk This Way? Well shucks…

This here is no one-trick tribyute album, this band is spreadin’ itswings, and boy are they gonna fly…

OK, OK – let’s get serious now. Hayseed Dixie got going in 2001 withan album of faithful AC/DC covers gone Hillbilly bluegrassstyle. Back In Black, Have A Drink On Me and (of course) Big Balls all gotthe treatment. Skip forward a few years and onto A Hot Piece Of Grassand the repetoire has expanded. The album is split almost 50/50 coversto original numbers. The former include classics byBlack Sabbath, Neil Young, Led Zeppelin, GreenDay and (more on this later) Outkast. It really, reallyshouldn’t work but it does.

Let’s go back-to-front and start with the original stuff. It’s damngood. Blind Beggar Breakdown kicks off the second half of this album witha technically dazzling bluegrass instrumental that will leave mostguitar players chins on the floor at just how fast these boys can roll.Kirby Hill and Uncle Virgil are purest hillbilly goodness. Mountain Manshows a little cock-rock influence in its main riff whilstalmost-an-instrumental Marijuana is something of a stoner-surfer number with a latinfeel to it.

There’s more puerile stoner humour on Moonshiner’s Daughter andespecially on Wish I Was You, which is simply so dumb that you have toadmire them for it – like all the original stuff it would probably be rightat home on a Farrelly Brothers soundtrack, and it’s not a role worsefor it. It would probably be the lasting memory of the album, if not forthat pesky Outkast cover…

Yup, the covers. Bluegrass War Pigs? Check. Works a treat. LedZep’s Black Dog, or Whole Lotta Love? They were always gonna work. A bitof Van Halen? Not so sure. Every one is absolutely faithful tothe structure of the original song, and as the originals were often alittle longer than a bluegrass number wants to be they can drag a littlein places, especially after a few listens – but that’s really a minorquibble.

It’s not just established classics this time – and, scarily enough,when Hayseed Dixie take on music’s current superstars the results areoften better than the originals. Franz Ferdinand get thetreatment, with a frantic This fffire that makes the original seem a little lazyby comparison. Likewise Green Day’s Holiday is reborn as spikyand as confident despite the absence of drums and heavy guitars. WithOutkast’s Roses, however, they’ve gone that step further andcreated something dangerous.

Be warned. If you don’t like Outkast, or Hayseed Dixie forthat matter, then don’t whatever you do listen to this track. Even if youdo, take care. Hayseed Dixie’s Roses is the musical equivalent of thebird-flu virus – highly infectious, and once you’ve got the bugger goinground your head it’ll be with you forever. First it’ll be the end thathooks you, the oddness of hearing phrases like “punk-ass bitch!” overthe twirling banjos. Then the chorus will embed itself in your brain andnever let go. The original becomes simply dull. Basically it’sbrilliant.

But in the end, if Hayseed Dixie really show us anything, it’s thatbeing shit-hot at playing your instruments can still have an impact onthe listener. Which is good. The album closes with a run throughDuelling Banjos, whose co-writer fathered two of the Dixie boys. Don’ it jus’warm your heart?

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More on Hayseed Dixie
Hayseed Dixie – Weapons Of Grass Destruction
Hayseed Dixie – A Hot Piece Of Grass