Hackensaw Boys: "We Are a Band That Jams"

If the Hackensaw Boys had been around in any earlier era -- say, the '20s or '30s -- they might have been big stars. Known for their rousing blend of fiddles, banjos, and high harmonies, they create a rousing party-pleasing sound that quickly turns any gathering into a scene filled with festive mayhem. It's a mix that ensures their status as populist heroes, not to mention steady draws on the festival circuit, where they've garnered a well-earned reputation as provocateurs of a kind of punk bluegrass mash-up that always inspires their crowds to whoop it up, regardless of whether they're hippies or at a hoedown.

The band, based in Charlottesville, Virginia, takes a tack similar to that of Old Crow Medicine Show, the Punch Brothers, the Howlin' Brothers, and other modern outfits that draw from the past to make an impression in the present. Their sound, once heard on back porches throughout the heartland, was brought to life on their six releases. We spoke with the band's guitarist David Sickmen to help illuminate the band's MO.

New Times: So what's the backstory?

David Sickmen: The band formed in 1999 over a mutual interest in old-time music. 

And where did the name come from?

One of the original members,Tom Peloso, came up with the name. It has to do with hacking and sawing on instruments. 

Can you give us idea of some of your early influences?

Dock Boggs, Roscoe Holcomb, Townes Van Zandt, and Bob Marley. 

What do you think sets the Hackensaw Boys apart from other bands that take that traditional Americana approach?

I think we bring a harder edge to the music than most bands. 

Given your freewheeling approach, would you consider yourselves a jam band?

We are a band that jams, so I guess in that way, I would. Yes!

There seems to be a real appreciation for traditional music, bluegrass and archival Americana these days, and in many ways, musicians and their fans are really going back to the roots. How would you account for that?

What's good lasts.

How do you construct your albums? Do songs come first or do have some sort of concept in mind beforehand?

I suspect a little of both. Songs are tricky. You have to take your time and figure out the best way to approach each one.

Who writes most of your music?

We all do. We have several songwriters in the band. 

Are your songs built out of jams or melodies that are written beforehand and then you improvise?

Most of the time, somebody has an idea and brings it to the band. Then it's hashed out over time. 

What are your future plans? Is there a new album in the works?

We have some upcoming tours throughout the summer. We also hope to finish our record before then and have it ready for release sooner rather than later.

The Hackensaw Boys perform at 9 p.m. on Wednesday, March 12, at Guanabana's, 160 North Highway A1A, Pompano Beach. No cover charge. Call 561-747-8878, or visit

At 8 p.m. on Friday, March 14, at Studios of Key West, 600 White Street, Key West. Tickets cost $30. Call 305-296-0438, or visit

At 8 p.m. on Sunday, March 16, at the Funky Biscuit, 303 S.E. Mizner Blvd., Boca Raton. Tickets cost $10, $15 and $25. Call 561-465-3946, or visit

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Lee Zimmerman