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Look Out

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Album Review

While the Hackensaw Boys have earned a reputation as a "weird bluegrass band" in the manner of Hayseed Dixie or Split Lip Rayfield, on their fifth album Look Out they sound less like a band playing with the formula of acoustic country music than a bunch of guys who love the genre but aren't afraid to play fast and hard when the spirit moves them (and it does often). As pickers, the Hackensaw Boys aren't exactly the Del McCoury Band, but their chops are at least as good (if not better) than the average act you'll see at a bluegrass festival, and they sound like a band, with a strong ensemble feel that more than compensates for their (very) occasional rough spots. The Hackensaw Boys can play at warp speed on tunes like "F.D.R.," "Sweet Petunia" and "Gospel Plow," but they can also connect on more measured material, and mid-tempo songs like "Baltimore" and "Hobo" demonstrate the strength of their songwriting chops, which avoid rural clichés in favor of honest but heartfelt stories of Appalachian life. The production on Look Out is simple and effective, capturing the details of the performances without adding too much gloss, and the finished project is a record that proves musicians can respect tradition without letting it hold them back. Look Out is bluegrass played with the touch of sincere acolytes as well the spirit of a rough-and-ready garage band, and the Hackensaw Boys are the rare group that can make both sides of this formula work equally well.

Biography

Formed: 1999 in Charlottesville, VA

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '00s, '10s

The Hackensaw Boys are not a family band. Instead, the name comes from their freewheeling approach to bluegrass and roots music. The Hackensaw Boys play acoustic music with the joyous abandon of a rock band, hacking at their guitars and mandolins, and sawing at their fiddles. The group was formed in 1999 in Charlottesville, Virginia. The original lineup featured Rob Bullington on mandolin and guitar, Tom Peloso on fiddle and upright bass, David Sickmen on guitar, and Bobby St. Ours on banjo and fiddle....
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