First Appeared in The Music Box, August 2007, Volume 14, #8
Written by John Metzger
Sun August 12, 2007, 06:00 AM CDT
It’s not a secret that bluegrass bands love to play fast and furious. After all, showing off their technical proficiency is a rite of passage for many of the genre’s stars. What separates the Hackensaw Boys from its more traditionally-minded cousins, however, is that the group injects the rugged bite of a bar band into its backwoods hollers. Its latest effort Look Out! continues the upward trajectory that began with the increased focus and maturity of the collective’s 2005 endeavor Love What You Do.
Stringing together an assortment of acoustic instruments — bass, fiddle, banjo, guitar, harmonica, accordion, and mandolin all dart through its work — the Hackensaw Boys oscillates between Look Out!’s mid-tempo, country-folk offerings and its rowdy, rapid-fire romps. Over the course of the album, the band effectively recasts the Pogues as an Appalachian outfit. The ensemble’s impressive musicianship propels the manic square dance of Look Out Dog, Slow Motion Train, and it drives the frenetic pulse of Sweet Petunia. Just as effortlessly, however, it weaves subtle, intricate textures into the swinging groove of Too Much Time and the gently swaying Sally Ann.
Nevertheless, it’s a cover of Gospel Plow that serves as Look Out!’s highpoint. Attacking the song with a vengeance, the Hackensaw Boys navigates the music’s twists and turns at such a hurried pace that it seems as if the tune could careen out of control at any moment, crashing in a chaotic heap of mangled instruments. It doesn’t, of course, but no matter how many times the track is played, it remains a thrilling joyride down the path that divides Heaven from Hell. Fans of Old Crow Medicine Show, Steve Earle, and the Del McCoury Band likely will find most of Look Out! to be a pleasant diversion, but by capturing the urgency of its live performances so perfectly on Gospel Plow, the Hackensaw Boys meets its peers and predecessors on its own terms.
Look Out! is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2007 The Music Box