Music News

Hackensaw Boys

Other critics have proclaimed that despite their foot-stomping, banjo-busting jamborees, the Hackensaw Boys emit a raw, moonshined vigor closer to Dust Bowl punk rockers than to modern bluegrass revivalists. And (shocker!) they're right -- catch the Boys in concert and you won't believe how quick you'll be barefootin' stagefront and looking for a cousin to kiss. 2003's live Give It Back documented that rollicking swing nicely; but two previous studio discs didn't quite capture it. So with Do What You Love, the six-man Virginia band takes the opposite route: Rather than kicking up dust at the hoedown, the Boys settle down onto the front porch and linger in the languid ambiance of their songwriting. Stripped of their dervish-like intensity, old concert faves like "Cannonball" and "We Are Many" are treated with the kind of delicate touch reserved for beloved antiques -- they're sturdy, rustic numbers but are here buffed into new shine with upfront vocals and added verses. Lantern-lit laments like "Sun's Work Undone" and "Buildings Are the Cages" radiate a pastoral warmth that in less world-weary hands might smack of hippie naivete; the Boys make them sound like a well-earned family homecoming after a long day driving mules and tilling fields. Lead vocals and instruments shift: Here's a mild Southern drawl and a dobro, there a gruff country bark and a fiddle, in between a three-part moan and an accordion. And if the downhome, syrup-sweet come-on "Kiss You Down There" doesn't earn these gentleman lotharios a wagonload of fawning female fans, nothing will.

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Jonathan Zwickel