When you think about bluegrass music, Belgium is probably not one of the first locations which come to mind. However, with their latest album The Dark is Barking, Belgian group Rawhide has shown that bluegrass can be created just as easily in Europe as it can in Kentucky or Tennessee. The band has compiled a collection of tunes from an extremely wide variety of influences, keeping some of the original sound of the songs while giving many a contemporary bluegrass treatment.
Many of the songs on The Dark is Barking were originally recorded by rock bands, ranging from Kiss to Creedence Clearwater Revival. The opening track is a driving, banjo-fueled version of the 1979 Kiss hit I Was Made for Loving You that the band fills with urgency. A cover of the Men at Work song Down Under is very faithful to the original, with somewhat of a Celtic feel. The Creedence Clearwater Revival song Looking Out My Backdoor is also included, with a fun, upbeat sound and nice instrumental solos.
A few songs are performed a capella, allowing the band to show off their harmony skills. Teenager in Love, a pop hit originally released by Dion and the Belmonts in 1959, has a fun fifties sound. Monday Monday from The Mamas & the Papas is given a soulful feel, as is the Gospel song Jesus Gave Me Water. While this song was originally recorded by soul singer Sam Cooke, it was also recorded on the first Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver Gospel record in 1981.
Rawhide does feature several bluegrass covers on this record. A calm, country-flaired version of Wait a Minute is one of the standout tracks, along with an enjoyable, fast-paced version of the Peter Wernick composition Leaving Town. Boone Creek’s One Way Track has been slowed down slightly, and both it and Raining in LA feature nice banjo work.
Rawhide lets their musical skills shine on the album’s instrumentals, with fine performances from Dirk Peeraer (dobro), Bert Van Bortel (guitar), Thierry Schoysman (banjo), Jeff Cardey (mandolin), Dirk Fonteyn (fiddle), and Dimi Laveren (bass). Bill Monroe’s Sugar Loaf Mountain is one of the more traditional sounding songs on the album and allows mandolin player Cardey to show off his talents. Cardey has also contributed an original mandolin tune, Cardey’s Breakdown.
While most of the songs on this album did not originate in the bluegrass genre, Rawhide has added in instrumental work, particularly on banjo and mandolin, which give the tracks an interesting modern bluegrass feel. Fans of early rock and pop music will particularly enjoy this album’s sampling of those genres.
For more information on Rawhide, visit their website at www.rawhide.be.
The Dark is Barking can be purchased from various online music retailers, including CDBaby, Amazon, and iTunes.