One of my favorite stylistic hybrids is the successful merging of old time and bluegrass music. And by successful, I more than offhanded references to another tradition, or the grassification of an old timey song or tune.
It’s not easy to pull off as it requires an in-depth understanding of both genres, and a genuine respect for them both.
A group that pulls this off with aplomb is Toronto’s Foggy Hogtown Boys. Their sense of humor tends toward the old time side; they have a silly band name, and their new album is titled Scotch & Sofa, a theme that is hilariously consistent throughout the CD packaging.
But it is just this sort of offbeat vibe that I find so charming about this band. At one moment, they sound like an old time band with a bluegrass banjo player; in another, it’s a bluegrass band with an old time fiddler. A few cuts are go-for-the-throat old time fiddle tunes, both new and traditional, and they include a number of songs that will be familiar to a bluegrass audience, but done up in an old time way.
How about some evidence to back this up, you say? For starters, check out the title track, a real barnburner written by fiddler John Showman and 3-finger banjo player Chris Quinn.
Or their clever version of the chestnut Salty Dog Blues, which combines the older, old time melody and chord progression with a bluegrass banjo kickoff. Singing is guitarist and clawhammer banjo man Chris Coole.
Plus, these Hog Boys can lay it down in the old time way. Check out their scalding cut of the old fiddle tune, Chinquapin Hunting, done as a mandolin tune by Andrew Collins.
Max Heineman plays bass, and does the bulk of the lead singing in the band.
Other songs included on Scotch & Sofa include Little Sadie, Raleigh & Spencer, Crying Heart Blues, Police and Always Been A Rambler.
Check these guys out. Fun stuff!