With its clean, earnest, New Age bluegrass sound, the South Austin Jug Band seems more suited to the Sugar Hill label than to Houston-based Blue Corn, which nevertheless has just released Dark and Weary World. The SAJB comes from that jam-grass niche populated by the likes of Sugar Hill acts Nickel Creek or Railroad Earth, but these Austin boys separate themselves from the jam-band pack with a determined back-home bluegrass lean to their performances -- which is to say they avoid the jazzy, noodling virtuosity that can make certain parts of sets by Eastern jam bands mind-numbingly non-entertaining. When SAJB attacks a traditional bluegrass number like "Raleigh and Spencer," it hits an infectious musical mark that can put a grin on the dourest critic's face, and ballads like "She Don't Care About Me" and "Weather on the Wood" are delivered with a straightforward, honest sincerity that absolutely sells the songs. Elsewhere, western swing workouts like "Lady Be Good" are delivered with a deft mastery of the idiom. This is one of those instantly likable bands, and these hard-travelers -- they recently toured behind Todd Snider -- come ready-made for both the listening room and the festival stage.
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