From The Side of the Road… gift ideas for your favorite grassers

It’s time for our annual review of the best new bluegrass music products introduced in the past year. Well it used to be annual, but then the pandemic hit and we had to put this off for a couple of years. There just wasn’t much in the way of exciting or even semi-exciting new products to talk about during this time. The one exception was the new bluegrass sleep aid that was introduced in the fall of 2020, called “With One Eye Open.” They had discontinued it by March of 2021.

Fortunately, between late summer and now, some pretty impressive new arrivals in the marketplace have helped to make up for the many months of drought. Here are a few of the best, in my opinion:

The Inflatable Ego  This is for musicians of all kinds, but especially for lead singers, fiddle players, and/or band leaders who may actually be a little too humble for the business. One dose of The Inflatable Ego and you’ll be playing and singing louder, referring to yourself in the third person, and making sure you’re front and center at all times. Self-promotion will suddenly just come naturally to you, and you’ll even begin to master some of the subtle techniques that have eluded you, like false humility. 

Though it was originally sold as a bitter-tasting powder, it now comes in your choice of easy-to-swallow gel caps or the new Inflatable Ego gummies. 

One of the features our testers loved about it was that it has a strictly temporary effect, usually just three to four hours. This enables you to strut your stuff at a gig, band rehearsal, or awards show, but you can make sure the effects have worn off before interacting with spouses, significant others, or close friends and family.

The bottle comes with this interesting warning:

“The Inflatable Ego is to be used by emotionally balanced individuals only, and works best with kind, humble, and soft-spoken people. Anyone using the product to compensate for deep insecurity may experience an undesirable outcome, which in some cases can result in abrasive behavior and a desire to trash peers on social media to reinforce his/her own importance. Use only as directed. Consult a physician immediately for an inflated ego lasting more than six hours.”

Fold-a-bassist  The last time I was in Nashville, a friend of mine informed me about this exciting new product while we were discussing the logistics of transporting bass players by air. It can be a challenge, especially with tall bass players: they don’t fit easily in an overhead compartment, and buying an extra seat for them can be very cost-prohibitive. Fold-a-bassist solves this problem completely with their new line of bass players that come with a detachable head and neck that simply fold into the bassist’s back. The legs can also be detached and folded upward. After that, the bass player can easily fit into any large-sized suitcase, or into a custom bassist carrying case, sold separately.

Our research team went through the whole process and found it took only about ten minutes to fold and pack our bass player and another ten to unpack and reassemble. Once put back together, he was able to speak normally, play the bass, and even sing harmony parts.

Chicken Hotrod  This is a brand new app, named for Don Reno’s alter ego comedy name when he and the Tennessee Cut-ups would, well, cut up. The app will generate comedy stage names that are suitable for any role in the band. It’s great to have a comedian bass player with big shoes or a banjo player who dances and wears a funny hat, but coming up with a suitable name for these characters is more challenging than you might think. Since Cedric Rainwater, Joe Binglehead, Waldo Otto, and the app’s namesake Chicken Hotrod have already been used,  it’s great to have an app to help with this decision. The designers used names from country music and bluegrass alter ego characters going all the way back to the 1920s, broke those names down into separate components, then just added some additional “funny words” like “flapgum,” “chawbeard,” and “liver.” The results are some highly usable music comedian names. Here are the first ten the app chose for me. You can specify male or female names. Many will work either way:

Eggs Browntown

Beaver Silicone

Darlene Rippledown

Cousin Sipsy

Mandleberry Bone-up

Cletus Undertow

Nanette Nickelpie

Ankles Broadbeam (this one seems more like a 1930s gangster name to me)

Goose Nezzlecone (also possibly a baseball player?)

Uncle Bow-wow