By Richard Alblas
Life can sometimes take you to unexpected places. Just ask the Hackensaw Boys. The popular Charlottesville-based bluegrass band recently traveled to Kinderdijk, the Netherlands, where they launched their latest album titled For the Love of a Friend. It was the second time in one year the band passed through this small village, a UNESCO World Heritage Site famous for its beautiful countryside and historic windmills, and they were there with good reason.
By John Phillips
The Hackensaw Boys rolled into Virginia Beach on April 6th to play a show at The Jewish Mother. I don’t know if it was kosher, but it sure was tasty!
Hillbillies, Hippies and the Hackensaw Boys
There’s one thing you can count on at a Hackensaw Boys show—nobody will be standing still. The band’s rowdy old-time sound has been making crowds move for more than a decade. It’s a hybrid of Appalachian front porch simplicity delivered with edgy punk rock power.
There are bands that play for the crowd and bands that don’t – But there are a select few bands that actually make the FANS part of the show, and The Hackensaw Boys, without a doubt, fall into this category. Thursday night’s show, put on by our friends Grey Area Productions at the Thunderbird Café in the Lawrenceville section of Pittsburgh, will be one of those events that many attendees will be raving about for weeks.
Before there was bluegrass, Appalachian folk musicians played their string instruments for such social occasions as dancing and front-porch visiting. Nowadays, it’s hard to find a band that doesn’t mix those old-time traditions with modern show-biz presentation. But the Hackensaw Boys hew to the spirit of the hills.
David Sickmen is on the road, hauling a load of wood flooring from Illinois to New York City before he heads back to Lynchburg to gear up for a regional tour with the Hackensaw Boys, the old-time country string band he co-founded with current Modest Mouse member Tom Pelosi back in 1999.
It’s a tour that will kick off this Thursday at Mangia, hit the National in Richmond the following night, Growler’s in Roanoke on Sunday, and then head south for shows in Nashville, Memphis, Jackson, Birmingham and Atlanta.
But right now, Sickmen is musing over an interesting coincidence.
"People always tell us, 'I never thought I would like bluegrass music, but I love you guys,' " said Ward Harrison, guitarist for the Hackensaw Boys. "Whenever someone comes up to us after a show and says, 'I'd never seen a bluegrass band before,' we say, well you still haven't."
So say the Hackensaw Boys, a six-piece acoustic act from Charlottesville that plays moonshine-era-inspired melodies with a punk rock swagger.
"If anything, we're a fiddle-stomping rock 'n' roll string band," Harrison said.
The kind of energy displayed on Look Out by the Hackensaw Boys is rare. At first listen the tempo is so fast you can hardly take a second to admire the musicianship or uniqueness of individual voices; it just demands you take part clapping, tapping, or howling along.
At first, The Hackensaw Boy’s CD Look Out sounds like standard issue blue grass but it doesn’t take long to realize that these guys aren’t pining for the good ol’ days of yesteryear, but are instead diving head-first into the hear and now and crowd-surfing into the future.
After seven years of relentless touring throughout the United States, Europe and the U.K., the Hackensaw Boys are being recognized as one of the most exciting groups on the diverse Americana music scene. The group’s second release for Nettwerk Records, Look Out, represents the recorded culmination of the Hackensaw’s unique vision: A celebratory but defiant sound culled from old-time mountains, backstage doorways and punishing drives through the evolving American landscape.