Hot on the heels of their live album recorded at a coffee shop in Ashland Virginia last year here’s a new studio album from The Hot Seats. They unveiled several of the songs and tunes on the album when they played here in May and anyone who knows the band will know what to expect here. That’s not to say that they are repeating themselves or going through the motions. Rather it’s another opportunity to marvel at their musical dexterity and to revel in their essential mixture of reverence and goofiness. Driving string driven workouts such as No Plans and Here To Get My Baby Out of Jail swing like hell and allow for plenty of inspired fiddle, banjo and guitar licks while the instrumental interludes (Rattletrap, Mineola Rag, Beasties In The Sugar, Hell and Scissors) almost inspire one to start a barn dance in front of the old desk. While the sheer vim and vigour of this whirlwind of plucking and picking makes The Hot Seats a must see live attraction their more restrained jug band side excels on the recorded medium. The rather risqué Peaches (unofficially accorded the title of the top song of the Shetland Folk Festival they recently played) allows Josh Bearman to fully wallow in the potential lasciviousness of this entendre laden ditty while the band slink along with a devilish mischievousness. Bearman carries on in this vein on Reminisce and Damaged Goods while his erstwhile bandmates strum and pick excellently along. The album culminates in the wonderfully titled I Wouldn’t Take Her To a Dog Fight, a song recorded by country singer Charlie Walker which for some might seem a tag misogynist. A great rendition by the band with all of their signature elements it’s a fine end to the album however we must say that on finding out that Walker’s version of this was recorded in 1967 was a surprise as the attitudes contained therein are somewhat antediluvian.
We must mention here that due to the sweet talking of the band members’ Blabber’n’Smoke was cajoled into buying a companion disc to this album at their gig in the Universal in May. Titled Leftovers it has six pieces they recorded but didn’t put on Feel. No barrel scraping here with Yonder Comes A Sucker a fine addition to the canon while they positively buzz on the instrumental Shaking Down The Acorns. Benjo is a measured and almost stately banjo rag with some rugged guitar and washboard backing. Ragged But Right is a fine piece of country braggadocio and Texas Gals is a veritable hurricane of ensemble playing with fingers flying and strings a buzzin’. A hidden song at the end has one of the band singing a plaintive cowboy trail type song, a little out of character for the band but a neat little addendum for fans.
Two great bands playing in two different venues on Sunday night required a modicum of planning however it was a toss of a coin that led me to visit the Woody Pines gig at Lauries Acoustic Music Bar first. This Trongate live music stalwart has changed its name recently and now proudly proclaims itself as Avant Garde. All well and good but this proved problematic for the band who apparently circled the area several times looking for Lauries Bar. Nevertheless by the time they appeared on stage they were unfazed by this slight hiccup and proceeded to turn the venue into a veritable southern roadhouse. The four piece North Virginia band led by the tousle haired Woody (who left his usual headgear to a barman in Ireland) immediately had the crowd going with a vibrant rendition of the traditional Long Gone Lost John before easing into Hank Williams’ Can’t Keep You Off My Mind. With guitarist Lyon Graulty switching between clarinet and some fine slide guitar playing the band slid from New Orleans type vamps to old time country blues with 99 Years a particular delight as Felix Hatfield excelled on the washboard sounding like a full drum kit. Crazy Eyed Woman loped along splendidly and an extended version of Counting Alligators with a spoken rap from Woody recounting a trip along Highway 61 encapsulated their appeal with a tight rhythm and a lot of swing.
Sadly the desire to see The Hot Seats led us to leave Woody and his band at half time in order to hoof it on up to The Universal and due to crossing the Glasgow dateline we caught most of their set. Another band who drink from the old time music well The Hot Seats are a (mostly) bearded raggle taggle crew who swap instruments with gay abandon and to great effect. Anyone who’s heard their latest live album would know what to expect but in truth the humour and sheer vibrancy of their set has to be seen live. The first song we caught, Trouble in Mind was a steamroller of banjo, fiddle and guitar flailing away, a great start. In full flight the five-piece band serve up an unplugged wall of sound that can make the hair on the back of the neck stand up. No Plans from their next album was an outstanding example of this, forget the cinematic Soggy Bottom Boys, this is the real deal. Playing tunes by the likes of Gid Tanner’s Skilletlickers and Earl Scruggs there was plenty of bluegrass action and even a turn by Shannon Dunne, an American “flatfooter” who whetted the audience’s appetite for a dance. The sly entendre of Peaches allowed the band to wallow somewhat in a vaudevillian humour fully realised on Soft John Blues, a fabulously louche country slouch that pays tribute to that old viagra.
Earlier on Woody Pines had commented on the somewhat cramped confines of his gig lamenting the lack of dancing space. At The Universal there was no such problem and by the closing and rousing Another Day, Another Dollar you couldn’t see the band for the dancers.
If this had been a battle of the bands then I’d declare it a draw and the only loser was the reviewer who haplessly missed out on the second set from Woody Pines. It’s safe to say however that both bands are smoking hot and if you get the chance to see one or both then do so.
Well we’ve got some good news and some bad news. The good news is that The Hot Seats, one of the finest string bands around at present are coming to Glasgow soon. The bad news is that they’re playing the same night as the fabulous Woody Pines, a bit of a predicament indeed! Well, there’s one more piece of good news. It appears that promoters Brookfield Knights have generously agreed that on presentation of a ticket stub for one of the gigs patrons can choose to catch a set each from both bands by utilising the break to head from the Universal to Lauries or vice versa. You takes your pick.
We’ve reviewed Woody’s latest offering here and had an opportunity to review The Hot Seats latest live album for Maverick magazine where they had previously been described as “fantabulous” and “bonkers but brilliant,” The album is a fantastic document of their live set. Straight from the off they tear into the traditional Trouble In Mind and it’s apparent that they were on fire this night. Whether they are playing honky tonk songs (Another Day, Another Dollar) or jug band (Sugar Pudding) the playing is spot on but the best moments are on the old string band arrangements of songs like Same Old Man and Killing Time where they mesh together while a well oiled machine. The closing cover of Hell Broke Loose in Georgia pulls out all of the stops in a tour de force that would defy any audience to remain in their seats.
Looks like Sunday 29th April will be a fine night for music in Glasgow so get your running shoes out and start training.
The Hot Seats are playing some other gigs.
04/27/12 Edinburgh, Scotland at House Concert at Douglas Robertson’s House
04/28/12 Brookfield Village Hall
04/29/12 Glasgow at The Universal
05/03/12 Shetland Islands, Scotland at The 32nd Shetland Folk Festival
Just time to note that The Hot Seats, a fantastic band from Virginia are playing at Lauries Bar this Thursday. Winners of a Herald Angel award for their appearance at the Edinburgh festival a few years ago they’ve also wowed the crowds (as we say) at Celtic Connections. Old time country, Appalachian yearnings and good old bluegrass fun this is a rare chance to see them in an intimate venue and it looks to be a great night.
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