Regular visitors to Blabber’n’Smoke will know that we’re suckers for energetic bluegrass/old timey country music with bands like The Hot Seats, The Foghorn Stringband and Hillfolk Noire regularly getting mentions here. Ignited many years ago when we first heard the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s triumphant triple album Will The Circle be Unbroken we quickly fell under the spell of the first two Holy Modal Rounder albums, old time music with a weird twist. The Rounders became weirder over the years but one song that has always stuck with us is Peter Stampfel’s Random Canyon, a sweet, innocent and nostalgic almost kiddie type song that hammers Puff The Magic Dragon into the ground. So it was with a sense of anticipation that we stuck the Random Canyon Growlers onto the hi-fi in case there was some element of Stampfel’s druggy nursery rhyme here. Sadly this was not to be the case however we did get to hear a great album of vibrant and energetic bluegrass songs that positively brims with confidence.
Hailing from mountainous Wyoming the Random Canyon Growlers are a young band with what appears to be a revolving line-up. Here they are a five piece with mainstays Jamie Drysdale and David McMeekin on guitar and banjo respectively. Their sound captures the classic air of bluegrass and old time country perfectly and although they attack the faster songs with a breathtaking energy they are equally at home with the more lachrymose ballad including a grand version of the Louvin brothers’ Dark as The Night. The the ensemble playing is tremendous and the solo virtuosity on display is at times breathtaking, the string bass snap on Doghouse assaults the ears with its ferocity. While they cover the likes of the Louvins and Bill Monroe the majority of the songs are written by Drysdale and McMeekin however a blind listen would fail to differentiate between the covers and the originals as they have immersed themselves in the tradition and updated it with brio. The songs leap into life with fiddle, guitar, mandolin and banjo duelling away in magnificent style while Drysdale and McMeekin throw their heart and soul into the vocals. They definitely stake their claim to be one of the best of the current young bluegrass bands.
Harking back to the Holy Modal Rounders at the end of the album a bunch of hidden tracks capture the band goofing around with one segment very reminiscent of the interludes on the Rounders psychedelic masterpiece Indian War Whoop. Intriguing.
Anyhow and more to the point the band are currently touring the UK commencing yesterday. Dates below. If they can carry off this level of achievement live then they’re a must.
Mon Oct 15: Sarratt, The Cock Inn
Tue 16: London, King’s Cross
Thu 18: Barnacre, The Kenlis Arms
Fri 19: Newport, The Bargeman’s Rest
Sun 21: Birmingham, Kitchen Garden Café
Tue 23: Horsham, The Tanners Arms
Wed 24: Lewes, The Snowdrop Inn
Thu 25: Bristol, The Canteen
Fri 26: Cardiff, The Moon Club
Sat 27: Sowerby Bridge, Puzzle Hall Inn
Sun 28: Stranraer, The Grapes
Mon 29: Cookstown, The Red Room
Tue 30: Omagh, The Weigh Inn
Wed 31: Listowel, St John’s Theatre
Thu Nov 1: Wexford, The Sky & The Ground
Fri 2: Belfast, The Belfast Barge
Sun 4: Arklow, The Fifty Six Bar