album reviews

Hayseed Dixie
A Hot Piece of Grass
Cooking Vinyl (2006)

Hayseed Dixie has made a career out of a somewhat questionable concept: bluegrass interpretations of rock songs. While previous recordings have been devoted to covers (including tribute records to AC/DC and Kiss), the group's most recent album, "A Hot Piece of Grass," includes a number of originals as well.

Despite the group's obvious sense of humor (the most prominent item in the liner notes' stage layout diagram is a "Beer Cooler or Tub"), its covers work surprisingly well. The musicians' proficiency matches Jimmy Page's blazing guitar riffs on Led Zeppelin's "Black Dog," while fast picking captures the thunderous volume of Motorhead's "Ace of Spades." The group tackles contemporary covers as well, with an ear-splitting "Yee-haw!" reflecting the rebellious spirit of Green Day's "Holiday."

A campy project, however, even when well executed, can grow tedious. Thankfully, after a momentum-draining version of Van Halen's "Runnin' With the Devil," Hayseed Dixie switches gears to originals, allowing the musicians' instrumental prowess to shine without the gimmick of covers. "Blind Beggar Breakdown" is a traditional bluegrass instrumental with furiously plucked banjo and mandolin and a swooping fiddle melody. But even with those traditional sounds, the group never loses its sense of humor: "Moonshiner's Daughter" features raunchy double-entendres, while recurring lyrical themes of drinking hint that they emulate rock 'n' roll's partying lifestyle as well as its heavy-hitting riffs.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post: 3 March 2006, Page WE09
.: A Hot Piece of Grass on