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Album Review

Is it bluegrass? newgrass? folk? jazz? Yep. And it's terrifyingly brilliant. The debut CD from San Francisco-based the Waybacks delivers everything you could desire in an acoustic album: insanely hot picking, soaring fiddle, great harmonies, and a perfect blend of styles and tempos, covers and originals. One of the first things that hits you between the ears here is the guitar playing of James Nash, although you'd be hard-pressed to choose the top dog in this pack. Nash and Wayne Jacques (mandolin) sound as one as they pull off a dual lead on Charlie Parker's "Scrapple From the Apple," bebopping their way through a tune recorded by everyone from Sonny Stitt to Bobby McFerrin. Jacques also doubles on fiddle, and shreds it to smithereens on "Lickkus Interruptus" (too funny), the bright and energetic opening track with playing that is as fluid as anything you'll hear from Mark O'Connor, Sam Bush, and the like. "Been Around" and "Compadres in the Old Sierra Madre" feature delightful harmonies, the foremost a catchy, masterful original written by Nash; the latter a well-chosen Riders in the Sky tune. Keeping in line with their knack for selecting cool covers, the boys tackle "The Last Steam Engine Train," a song recorded by both its originator, John Fahey, and Leo Kottke. Here's your chance to see what an entire band can do with it. Nash pulls out a slide for this one and Stevie Coyle keeps it driving forward on finger-style guitar, at one point turning the lead over to Jacques on fiddle. The Waybacks are not bluegrass purists, to be sure, but they know that every proper bluegrass-inflected album must contain at least one waltz — and Kenny Baker's "McHattie's Waltz" satisfies that requirement in fine fashion. Scotsman Artie Fisher's ballad "The Witch of the Westmereland" is arguably the brightest gem on this recording. It's beautiful, lilting melody and plaintive vocal reading from Coyle result in recurrent grasps for the volume knob. The Waybacks bring it all home by plugging in for Jacques' wild 'n' woolly arrangement of the traditional song "Cluck Old Hen." (But don't miss the uproarious hidden track!) The musicianship here is absolutely top drawer. Devolver can easily stand repeated listenings — many of them. It is a treasure that no serious music lover should be without.

Customer Reviews

Great band, great album

First heard this album by the Waybacks about four years ago from a friend who saw them live. I immeidately fell in love with the music but had to do a bit of detective work to track down a copy for myself. It's great to see it's made its way to the iTunes music store so everyone can enjoy the unique musical experience of the Waybacks. This is my favorite album of The Waybacks (but they're all great) and it's most enjoyable in its entirety; however, if you must pick a single song, I'd recommend their version of Archie Fisher's Witch of the Westmereland.


I saw them in concert with my friends in SF and I can't believe I found them on iTunes! They are great and I have supported their band since the beginning!


I love this band xDD


Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '90s, '00s

The traditional sounds of old-timey string band music is only element of the musical tapestry woven by San Francisco-based quintet the Waybacks. Roots Town Music Magazine called them "a dream combination of punk vandalism and hyper-intelligent, seldom heard, humoristic musicality," while the Winnipeg Free Press praised them for their "unpretentious musicality." Describing their musical approach, wrote, "it's everything from 'Kumbaya'-like folk and cowboy jazz, space jam, celtoid,...
Full Bio
Devolver, The Waybacks
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Customer Ratings