The Deadly Gentlemen **** The Village
THERE are some words that just shouldn't share space together. Bluegrass and rap, for instance, or banjo and thrash. And certainly not thrash banjo.
The Deadly Gentlemen, however, care not for such things. They don't have much of a sense of decorum when it comes to combining musical styles.
Describing themselves as "Woody Guthrie meets Eminem", this New York quartet are on a quest to introduce Europe to their strange hybrid of urban neuroticism and folksy charm, served with a hefty dollop of dry humour.
In Scotland, in January, it's not the glossy veneer of big city cool that makes this enticing little group stand out, but the geeky, gifted core of solid musical workmanship evident in their playing and harmonies.
It's almost as if they are so focused on developing style that the simple joy to be found in listening to their basic substance has been overlooked.
Wiry and tense, lead singer Greg Liszt hovers over his banjo in a black shirt with a loose black tie hanging over his shoulders. Next to him fiddler Mike Barnett surveys the audience through his shades, while double bassist Sam Grisman is a blur of curls hulking artily at the back. It's only the fabulously named Stash Wyslouch, a meaty, early 50s farm-boy presence, who seems to lend an authentic weight to the ensemble. The rest, like their music, seem over-accessorised and somehow encumbered by cool.
With rapid, intellectual lyrics, the mellifluous flow of the underlying music is jarring. Rather than allowing the audience to be carried away by the emotion, Liszt has the crowd analysing the words in the manner of a city slicker hopped up on caffeine and seeking an emergency appointment with his shrink.
Yet there are moments of clarity, when the group's overriding vision falls into place.
Working is splendid, with a cheeky, familiar anthemic hook, and Roll Me, Tumble Me can only be described as downright sexy, in a Lou Reed kind of way.
Their brief trial of The Policeman Song – the first tune in a whole new musical genre they've labelled 'Grasscore' – was exciting and entertaining, an up tempo piece with punk edges and a distinct dash of raucous nights on Shetland.
Sharing the stage as an opening act were the Bevvy Sisters, whose first album St James Sessions will be released next week.
Gaining plaudits from all sorts of quarters for their buttery vocals and scintillating harmonies, the group are certainly ones to keep an eye on in 2010. Their Cow Cow Yicky Ay Ae and The Way You Know You Do are among their tracks well worth catching live.