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Concert Review by Nick Morgan


The Forum
Kentish Town, London
Sept. 14th 2005
by Nick Morgan

Hayseed Dixie
I blame this gig on a good friend of mine, Ol’ Misery. Every now and again Misery (as I like to call him) sends me compilations of his favorite sounds, normally stuff like Bangladeshi funeral chants sampled with the best of Brian Wilson’s Smile. Exhilarating stuff! Anyway a few months ago a Misery special dropped on my doormat. Half way through, just as I was giving up all hope, I was stopped in my tracks by a country tune, “What was that?”. I played it again and realized to my delight it was a bluegrass pastiche of that great rockers’ favourite, Motorhead’s ‘Ace of Spades’, by a band called Hayseed Dixie. I was hooked – or so I thought. Hence the gig.
Big mistake. Hayseed Dixie are a one joke band, playing frenetic ‘rockgrass’ renditions of a comical variety of vaguely heavy metal tunes, ranging from AC/DC (Hayseed Dixie – get it?) through Kiss, Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin. They even manage to include the marvelously funny Outkast and the less amusing but highly fashionable Franz Ferdinand. The problem is that once you’ve got the ‘joke’ of each song, normally at the start of each arrangement, then each one frankly sounds pretty much the same. It’s like hearing a one-dimensional stand-up comic doing jokes about his mother-in-law all night, and about as interesting. That’s why we left early.
Hayseed Dixie That’s not to say that the band isn’t without talent. Singer and fiddle-player Barley Scotch (aka Nashville recording studio owner and PhD-holding Guardian reader John Wheeler) sings and plays strongly, and does his best to engage the audience with ‘comic’ patter (more of which later) as their interest patently wanes as the night goes on. The guts of the band are provided by Don Wayne and Dale Reno, on banjo and mandolin. These ‘boys’ are sons of the famous banjo picker Don Reno, who co-wrote ‘Duelling Banjos’ back in 1955, or thereabouts. And their playing, despite the comedic bent, is of the highest quality.
But from the look of it both Don Jnr. and Dale were with their Daddy at the time, for they both look to be the wrong (oops, I meant to say the right) side of 50. Now despite his advanced years Dale burst onto stage not in bib and braces, like the rest of the boys, but a cut-off B&B outfit in tribute to AC/DC’s Angus Young (headband and all) , and for the first few numbers does a pretty good and laughingly incongruous Angus routine with his mandolin. But time takes its toll on us all, and as Dale slows down he begins to seek frequent refreshment from the huge tub of iced beers that sits behind the band. As a consequence he takes increasingly prolonged absences from the stage for ‘relief’.
But that’s ok, because Barley Scotch is there to drawl though a parody of a good old boy routine that like the songs becomes increasingly threadbare, complete with a Alabama 3 revivalist religion thing. And lots of beer. Now I guess it may be an attempt to jolt the straight-laced sour faced PC majority out of their sanctimonious smugness, but in the end it’s flat and repetitive. A discourse about ‘ass’ and breasts (both of which feature heavily on the cover of their new album A Hot Piece of Grass), is followed by one about women’s pubic hair (it’s supposed to be a George Bush joke), NASCAR (it’s an American sport apparently) involving more breast, ‘ass’ and beer, and divorce, which brings on more of the same. Hayseed Dixie
In between, in addition to the covers, we also get some of the boy’s own tunes, most notably ‘I’m keeping your poop (in a jar)’, and for whisky lovers, ‘I married the moonshiner’s daughter (she made me liquor all night long)’. Ouch!
Ho hum indeed. Well, it maybe that my sense of humour is failing me (actually I don’t think it is) but this all seemed to add up to something pretty lightweight. A decent idea executed well, but not one that really adds up to an hour and a half in a concert hall, or for that matter forty minutes or so on a disc. So if you have to listen to them think hard about buying an album; maybe get in touch with Ol’ Misery first. - Nick Morgan (concert photographs by Kate)

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