Rock Salt & Nails from New Primitive

New Primitive at Bluegrass First Class – photo © G. Nicholas Hancock

New Primitive, a seven piece ensemble from North and South Carolina, has released their second single. It’s a new preservative on an old song, Rock Salt & Nails, giving a nod to the band’s name.

Both Flatt & Scruggs in 1965 and JD Crowe & the New South ten years later recorded the tune (written by Utah Phillips in 1961) in a slow, easy-going ballad style. New Primitive pressed the accelerator and has driven Rock Salt & Nails into a rapid, toe-tapping tune.

“Our concept is honoring the past and embracing the future,” mandolinist Louis Hughes explained. “We want to stay with our roots which are primitive, but put out new original work, too.”

The band is comprised of three North Carolinians: banjoist, Trey Hodge; lead guitarist, Austin Simonds; and rhythm guitarist, Ben McCurry, plus four South Carolinians: dobroist, Alex Hampton;  mandolinist, Louis Hughes; and newest members: fiddler, Peyton O’Kelley and bassist, Caleb Rollins.

“We started in 2021. We came together and just jammed when shows weren’t happening. It was birthed out of that time together,” Hughes shared. 

“Ryan Wilson was our bass player during this recording, and a member of our band for a year. We love him and wish him the best. He deserves a mention for his hard work.”

Their single was recorded at Clemson University in their audio-engineering department. 

“It was actually a project that we did with Dewey Boyd. He is Ricky Skaggs’ sound guy and runs the tour for Dan Tyminski. He is an excellent audio engineer. For the students there, we came in and did a full recording over a weekend in December 2022. We had a really good time. It was fun for the students and fun for us.

“We love Tony Rice and his work. Rock Salt & Nails is our rendition in honor of him and JD Crowe. They poured a lot into the way we pursued our music. They impacted all of us.”

The tune features Hughes on the lead vocal and begins with him whistling. 

“The guys surprised me with that,” stated Hughes who often whistles. “Gabriel Wiseman did the mastering on the project. The whistling was done in the studio. I was just trying to get in the mindset of being out on the creek humming this song. I was trying to get myself in the ‘Tony’ spirit.

“We’re honored with the responses we’ve received. We are thankful to God, all our friends, and the bluegrass community that has fostered us.”

Give a listen to a new take on an old song from New Primitive:

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About the Author

Sandy Hatley

Sandy Chrisco Hatley is a free lance writer for several NC newspapers and Bluegrass Unlimited magazine. As a teenager, she picked banjo with an all girl band called the Happy Hollow String Band. Today, she plays dobro with her husband's band, the Hatley Family.