Hayseed Dixie,
A Hillbilly Tribute to AC/DC
(Dualtone, 2001)

AC/DC is the epitome of hard rock. They wrote the book and sold a zillion copies. Their's is simple music with basic notes, nothing really fancy, but AC/DC turned it into a soul pulling primal music.

Hayseed Dixie is amazing, to say the least. I really couldn't stop laughing at the incongruity -- a "redneck" backwoods group playing this music -- it didn't compute at all! They give a great tale on the disc insert about some young stranger getting into a car accident in the fertile valley of Deer Lick Holler (which is deep in the heart of Appalachia) with a bunch of AC/DC vinyl under his seat. The good ol' boys took those platters home and listened to them on the only turntable they had -- "an old Edison Victrola that only played at 78 R.P.M." Figuring this was great country music -- after all, there is a fine line between country and rock, one which becomes more smudged with each passing year -- these boys decided to learn all the songs, and here they are in all their glory.

I still don't know whether to laugh or sit in shock, and I've listened to this disc innumerable times in the last few days. The music is phenomenal! These guys are in full control of their instruments and make them shine. From the awesome talent on the dobro to the flaming fiddling, and incredible picking on the guitars, there is not one weak area. Sure, there could be more bass, but the music stands grandly without it.

Most of these tracks are from the Bon Scott days; loud, brash, and throbbing. I think he would have liked them; in fact, I think even Angus Young would approve of this tribute. The photo on the back of the insert features four men in coveralls (one of whom is shirtless and shoeless). Their eyes are all blacked out, naturally, and they don't look like anyone I'd want to meet in a dark alley -- or a lit one for that matter! Intimidating, is an understatement; the image suits "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap" perfectly.

The opening number is "Highway to Hell" and it really rocks! The lyrics are even more understandable than when Bon Scott did the piece -- which is rather interesting. With the opening bars on the guitar, you think it is just an acoustic version, but no, it isn't. The remaining instruments kick in and you know it is something very different. The fiddling is exceptional in this piece, and I think the fiddler would be able to give the devil himself a run for his money! The vocals are somewhat discordant, but manage to blend together into something listenable.

"You Shook Me All Night Long" continually throws me for a loop; just when the bass ought to be cutting in, the fiddle makes an intro. The song is slower, and the lyrics clear, which is something AC/DC didn't always provide. This song loses some of its sexual heat in this format, however, and some of the power is missing, but it is a nice piece. The dobro makes itself heard well in this track, trading off on the spotlight with the fiddle.

I could comment on any of these songs, they are all really well done, and the quality of musicianship in this group is phenomenal. These guys are really masters of their instruments -- not too mention their wonderful collective sense of humour.

"Have a Drink On Me" is a track which almost sounds better than the original version. It is warm, cozy and inviting but with subtle dark undertones. And again, you can understand the vocals without any problem. This feels faster than the original, but that may just be the different sound giving that impression. And the ending had me in stitches, the lead vocalist mutters: "drunker than a one-legged cat trying to bury a turtle in a frozen lake, I tell ya!"

If you liked AC/DC, you have to check this out. If you didn't like AC/DC, you still have to give these good ol' boys a serious listen. There is talent in abundance oozing from this disc -- talent that will be appreciated by anyone who likes good music. And if you get the chance to see this group live, by all means -- GO! (And ask them to head up to Canada on a tour, please!)

[ by Naomi de Bruyn ]
Rambles: 14 July 2001

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