It ought to come as little surprise that Hot Buttered Rum’s recorded catalog contains a fair amount of concert albums, especially when considering the fact that they’re a band whose instrumental outlay translates well to live performance. With nine offerings to their credit over the course of their combined 16 year career, they demonstrate an attitude, aptitude, verve, and vitality that are well in keeping with traditional bluegrass and old time conceits.
That’s not to say they don’t possess a fair amount of contemporary credence as well. Based in San Francisco, they’re well in sync with what it takes to garner populist appeal, especially given the fact that they can boast frequent festival appearances. That upbeat sentiment leaves its mark on Lonesome Panoramic, with the rousing Sittin’ Here Alone, the riveting Leaving Dallas, a jaunty How Short the Song, and the rapid-fire delivery of Never Got Married setting the overall tone and temperament. That said, there’s little hint of frivolity or irreverence evident anywhere. Their earnest intents come through in such songs as Sleeping Giants, Country Tunes & Love Songs and The One That Everybody Knows, with only one track — the exaggerated wail of When That Lonesome Feeling Comes — suggesting any overt attempt at mimicking satire or silliness.
Ultimately, Lonesome Panoramic reflects the work of a talented group of close-knit colleagues who know how to share their skills and play in sync, with no one individual eager to overshadow the others. The band — James Stafford (mandolin, drums), Zebulon Bowles (fiddle, vocals), Bryan Horne (upright bass), Nat Keefe (vocals, acoustic guitar), and Erik Yates (vocals, banjo, dobro, guitar) — emphasize subtlety over sizzle, finesse as opposed to frenzy, and a confidence and assurance that makes melody the primary focus. It’s a decided skill set to be sure, especially given the intrusion of today’s jam band mentality which often overrides the need for complete cohesion or a strict adherence to form.
Granted, Hot Buttered Rum don’t make any real attempt to push the parameters, but it’s that working man regimen that ensures their consistency from one offering to another. That’s the kind of quality that makes Hot Buttered Rum always seem to go down so smoothly.