Grain Thief has always had an interest in probing the real roots of traditional music, from the sounds of a string band to the further essence of Americana. With their new live offering, Ain’t Hungover Yet, they combine their respect for those forms with an irreverent attitude, as suggested by the title. They cover some standards — an upbeat take on Bob Dylan’s Tangled Up In Blue, a dashing version of Tennessee Stud, a heartfelt rendition of the Hank Williams classic, Lonesome Highway, and a robust version of Teenage Wedding — in addition to their own lively originals.
Yet despite their obvious devotion to past precepts, the Boston-based band — Patrick Mulroy (guitar, vocals), Zach Meyer (mandolin, vocals), Michael Harmon (bass, vocals), Tom Farrell (resonator guitar), and Alex Barstow (fiddle) — don’t allow themselves to be taken too seriously. A generally light-hearted mood pervades their performance as a whole, helping to affirm the bond they build between artist and audience. So too, the prevalence of spirited instrumentals — the jaunty fiddle tune, Chirps & Williams, the decidedly demonstrative, The Jigsaw Outlaw, and the cajun-flavored, Katy Did, help maintain the set’s jovial feel.
Still, despite the casual and often carefree vibe, skill and savvy are in evidence as well. That’s especially evident when the band opts for reflection and repose. The ominously titled, Nightmare, and the seemingly circumspect, Pretty Darn High, find that balance and, despite what the latter might suggest, a sense of sobriety as well. Even so, it doesn’t detract from the otherwise amiable attitude that dominates the delivery overall.
With each of their efforts, Grain Thief has gained a respectable reputation, and even if they’ve yet to find the wider audience they so decidedly deserve, it’s clear they’ve go t all it takes to became fan favorites. Hopefully Ain’t Hungover Yet will offer the impetus needed to further that fame. As evidenced by the songs shared here, their’s is a euphoric feeling that’s quite clearly contagious.