Hayseed Dixie

Let's get one thing out of the way immediately: This four-man bluegrass band can pick like hell. At the same time, let's address the central question posed by Hayseed Dixie's very existence: Can a long-term career be etched out of metal hillbilly shtick?

Quite possibly, if the anonymous musicians follow the lead of Dread Zeppelin and pitch their live shows at the college crowd. After all, once the coolness factor evaporates and once all the AC/DC addicts snap it up, this album is destined for the cutout bin, right next to all those Dred Zep cassettes that collect dust.

Then again, maybe the whole thing is a joke cooked up by a record company that hired some Nashville studio studs to crank out this thing. That being said, there are four cuts here that are things of beauty, songs that bear repeated listening just to savor how well the original arrangements were altered to fit this chicken-fried cacophony. "Hell's Bells" (with a cheesy hotel-clerk bell starting things off) is played at twice the original speed. "Let's Get It Up" moseys along with precise interplay between the bass, mandolin and guitar, a trio of stringed instruments that do just fine without any percussion.

"Back in Black" is hilarious, just to hear Brian Johnson's throat-ripping lines sung in a loping, deadpan style within a bad-boyz-of-country arrangement that could easily be found on, say, an early Steve Earle record. And the cover of "You Shook Me All Night Long," which brings to mind the one that Reckless Kelly fans scream for, is played at two-step speed, as opposed to Kelly's haulin'-ass version. (You have to wonder if the Reckless guys are kicking each other in the ass for not producing a whole album of this stuff before these friggin' Hayseeds.)

Yet the vamped-up, tongue-in-cheek vocals that work on those four songs fail miserably elsewhere. The arrangements on early AC/DC tunes like "TNT," "Big Balls" or "Dirty Deeds (Done Dirt Cheap)" come across as hurried and clumsy. The vocal delivery is horrifically irritating, to say the least, and the inclusion of flatulence and belches in place of explosions or Bon Scott's trademark song-ending wail is the kind of thing that would appeal to a backwoods yokel driving his 4x4 back to the trailer park. "Huh, huh, huh. Listen, Dwayne, 'at there fella done a fart noise on the ray-di-o." Then again, there's nothing like pitching your stuff to the right demographic.

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Greg Barr
Contact: Greg Barr