First Appeared in The Music Box, February 1999, Volume 6, #2
Written by John Metzger
Hexbelt is York, Pennsylvania's contribution to the burgeoning jam-band scene, and it draws its name from the geographical label that is often applied to this Dutch-influenced region. The group evolved out of Once Fish, and recently it released Wonderland? — its first disc under its new name.
Hexbelt's songs revolve around the chunky guitar rhythms of Dann Ottemiller, the biting lead of guitarist Mike Couch, and the driving grooves of bassist Nathan Erbe and drummer Brendan McGowan. Ottemiller also delivers the vocals with a raging confidence that at times masks the desperation in his lyrics. The band's music blends elements from a variety of styles including funk, reggae, ska, country-rock, and blues. The result is a cohesive, soul-driving set that falls somewhere between moe. and the Freddy Jones Band with a splash of the now-defunct Freight Train, who also hailed from Pennsylvania, thrown in for good measure.
Remembrance Day is a gently rolling country tune with a blues-based undercurrent. The outstanding acoustic-based Corkscrew also falls into this mode, while adding a touch of Wilco. However, the best song on Wonderland? is the definitive single Forget-Me-Nots that kicks things off with a drum beat and an infectious groove of jangling guitars and bubbling bass.
Hexbelt has been touring throughout the mid-Atlantic for the past several years and clearly wants to create a positive listening environment for its fans. Sound engineer Michael Strickler has created a custom-built Hi-Fi system — capable of capturing the band's explosive dynamics. Fueled by the driving grooves of Wonderland?, the band ought to expand its touring horizons as fans jump on the Hexbelt bus. ½
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 1999 The Music Box