The Hackensaw Boys,
Give It Back
(self-produced, 2002)

If you've been hankerin' to have a hootenanny in your own living room, I have a low-cost solution for you. I can pretty much guarantee that the Hackensaw Boys live CD Give It Back, with volume turned up loud, will convince neighbors that there are hillbillies among them. At a minimum, it should bring back memories of Granny, Jed, Elly May and Jethro.

The Hackensaw Boys, based out of Charlottesville, Va., say they "perform original and traditional alt-country bluegrass and old-time mountain music." This fast-paced music is a type that will get you strange looks if you admit you like it. But, personally, I think a lot of folks secretly enjoy a toe-tappin', knee-slappin', high-energy good time if the opportunity arises. Just add beer/liquor to lower your inhibitions and you too will soon be a-dancin' and a-singin'.

It took eight rarely washed individuals to produce this 20-song CD: Uncle Blind Bobby (banjo, fiddle, guitar, pennywhistle), Pee Paw (bass, fiddle, guitar, banjo), Shiner (guitar, banjo), Mahlon (mandolin, guitar), Skeeter (harmonica, guitar, bass), Salvage (charismo, spoons, drums, nose whistle, kazoo), Kooky-Eyed Fox (banjo, which he apparently plays "the hell out of") and Big Roy (accordion, piano). All eight band members sing; not a single one of them sings all that great, but with all the fun you'll be having listening to Give It Back, it doesn't matter. Besides, I think they all play "the hell out of" their instruments -- especially the fiddle!

Give It Back quickly pulls out of the station with "Lonesome Train." With a harmonica and vocal simulations, the Boys can almost convince you that a train is starting up just out of sight. The singer wants to leave town. He doesn't have any time, luggage or money, yet he has to escape the misery of his life there. And where does he end up? Back in town because he misses his baby.

I love the Boys' rendition of "I'll Fly Away," which they precede with an intro of "Colored Aristocracy." This is the fastest rendition of "I'll Fly Away" I think I've ever heard. It loses a lot of its religious overtones here. "...And when I die, hallelujah, by and by, I'll fly way..." just comes out different when sung in mountain mush mouth. It's great!

"Cumberland Gap" cracks me up every time I hear it. The Boys sound like a bunch of drunken' old coots - without their dentures. I just hope nobody has heard me sing along! You can tell the band is having a great time while they belt this one out. And as for the lyrics, I don't even know what I'm singing. All I understand is that they are "14 miles from Cumberland Gap."

With 20 tracks, the Hackensaw Boys cover a lot of ground. For live recordings, this one is pretty decent. You really do get a feeling that you are almost there and partying with them yourself. I have a hard time understanding the words, but I don't have any trouble getting caught up with the spirit. Give It Back is a fun CD infused with energy that can only come from a live performance.

I would like to close quoting the Boys' biography with a statement that could not have been said any better by Granny Clampett. "It's true that Hackensaw music, pure as a mountain stream and sweet as a jug of syrup, is guaranteed anodyne for the aches and pains of modern life."

- Rambles
written by Wil Owen
published 22 March 2003

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