Hayseed Dixie,
A Hillbilly Tribute
to Mountain Love

(Dualtone, 2002)

Hayseed Dixie didn't wait long after the successful cross-genre tribute to AC/DC before venturing back into the pool for more rock 'n' roll dredged through a thick Appalachian filter. But where the band focused last time around on a single band, the new recording dips into a broad range of popular rock and throws in a few originals for good measure. The theme, as the title suggests, is "mountain love," and that means more than you might expect.

The album kicks off with a full hillbilly treatment of "My Best Friend's Girl," and you can bet Ric Ocasek never imagined this twangy reinterpretation complete with a down-home backdrop of fiddle and banjo. The music drives on into "Centerfold," straight out of the redneck nightmares of the J. Geils Band. Yee-haw, this is fun!

The music conjures thoughts of sprawling porches, lazy dogs, ill-fitting jeans and jugs o' 'shine. Incongruous, yes, when the song is Aerosmith's "Walk This Way," Bad Company's "Feel Like Making Love" or Joan Jett's "I Love Rock 'n' Roll." And on it goes, sashaying through Queen's "Fat Bottom Girls," Spinal Tap's "Big Bottom" and Ted Nugent's "Cat Scratch Fever."

Sometimes it's impossible not to laugh out loud. Listen to the album for the first time without the track list handy so you can experience that first shock of recognition unwarned! It's hard to believe these songs weren't written with this abuse in mind. And damn, if the boys in the band aren't good at what they do, handling their musical chores with casual adeptness.

Hayseed Dixie is Barley Scotch, a.k.a. John Wheeler, on vocals, guitar, fiddle and bass; Talcum Younger, a.k.a. Don Wayne Reno, on banjo; and Enus Younger, a.k.a. Dale Reno, on mandolin. Wheeler is also the producer, engineer and designer for the project, and no doubt he provided the moonshine as well. Gotta say, the man is a demented genius, twisting music in directions no one else would have dreamed of trying.

Wheeler also tries his hand at composition, tossing two originals -- "The Perfect Woman" and "I'm Keeping Your Poop" -- into the mix. The first is fairly straightforward country twang, settling innocuously into the set. The second is a straight-sounding send-up of all those "missing you" country standards -- and it's wicked in its seeming innocence.

A Hillbilly Tribute to Mountain Love is grand fun, whether or not you usually spend much time listening to country or bluegrass music. The Appalachian sounds of Hayseed Dixie meld seamlessly with the rockin' tunes they've chosen to spoof, and it works with amazing success. I can't help but wonder where they'll go next....

[ by Tom Knapp ]
Rambles: 7 June 2002

Buy it from Amazon.com.