Saturday, January 18, 2014

Hayseed Dixie - Killer Grass

Bluegrass interpretations of rock classics.  I believe founding member, frontman, acoustic guitarist and violinist John "Barley Scotch" Wheeler probably came up with the idea of a band performing the AC/DC songbook as bluegrass music more as a one off gag - a fun novelty  - when in 2000 the band released its first album, A Hillbilly Tribute To AC/DC.  I doubt Wheeler believed he was founding a new genre of music.

Yet, that is what happened.  The first "joke" album was wildly successful, especially on the bluegrass charts. The band decided to stay with it. By 2003 Hayseed Dixie was a bluegrass force with three albums on the bluegrass charts and a considerable country and rock crossover audience. An album of bluegrassed KISS songs followed, so did other albums to capitalize on the popularity of the band's covers.   Additional releases have included bluegrass renditions of popular hit songs by The Cars, Bad Company, Ted Nugent, J. Geils Band, Queen, Aerosmith, The Darkness, Motörhead, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Green Day, Neil Young, Van Halen, Outkast, Franz Ferdinand, The Rev. Horton Heat, Sex Pistols, Cliff Richards, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Scissor Sisters, Status Quo, Judas Priest and Alice Cooper, among others.  Interspersed among the covers are originals by the band, a full album of original bluegrass tunes, and a bizarre, all Finnish, bluegrass album that even contains a cover of Rammstein's "Mein Teil."  Hayseed Dixie has, by one estimate, played over 1,000 live shows in 31 different countries. Between 2001 and 2003 they sold over 250,000 albums.  They single-handedly pioneered the music genre now known as "rockgrass." 
The band is comprised of incredibly talented musicians and that is why the bluegrass rock covers work so well.  A perfect album to sample the country rock bluegrass of the band is their 2011 release Killer Grass.  Here is the track listing and, if some titles sound familiar, it is because they are covers:

"Bohemian Rhapsody"
"Alien Abduction Probe"
"In the Backyard"
"Eine Kleine Trinkemusik"
"Norfolk Girl"
"She's Just My Type"
"Underneath the Bed"
"Sabbath Bloody Sabbath"
"Won't Get Fooled Again"
"Ramblin' Man" / "Don't Cry For Me"

The album Killer Grass is also novel.  It is a CD DVD package with 7 original compositions and 6 covers. The DVD contains the complete and unedited CD quality multi-track audio files for the entire album.  Thus, if you have Garage Band, Pro Tools, or another mixing program, you can mix the songs to your own liking.  In fact, a bonus song, "Love Cabin," you must mix in order for it to be heard.

This is just plain, light, airy fun.  Hayseed Dixie fills a comedic musical niche that it has turned into a musical genre. Check them out.  You will marvel at their musicianship and chuckle at the concept ("Bohemian Rhapsody" as bluegrass!?! Really?)  Just don't take it too seriously, although I'm sure the band does - all the way to the bank.

- Old School 



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