no let-up of foot stomping ferocity

EIGHTEEN months since their last visit to the Picture House, hee-haw has changed within the Hayseed Dixie stage-act. The educated rednecks – whose penchant for bluegrass versions of classic rock tunes has racked up half a million record sales since forming eleven years ago – see no reason to change their moonshine-swilling formula, or their dungarees.

Drinking, cheating, killing and hell all remain key themes of the Hayseed lexicon. Yet despite extolling the immoralities of each to inglorious and humorous effect, the Picture House resembled something of a half-empty barn last night.

So all begs the question: has the novelty finally worn off?

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Led by guitarist/fiddler Barley Scotch (aka John Wheeler, a doctor of philosophy no less), Thor-lookalike Jake Byers (bass) and brothers “Deacon” Dale Reno (mandolin) and “Reverend” Dale Reno (banjo), the band – who play far too fast for any drummer to keep up with – also include an onstage beer fridge amongst their line-up.

No matter how many bottles of hooch are consumed, though, the bolts of their music never seem to slacken. Indeed, with each passing of beer (literally, given the amount of pit-stops the band make to the toilet) the tunes merely intensify in speed, putting many of their heavy-metal heroes to shame in its fiery, foot stomping ferocity.

In between the many AC/DC and Led Zeppelin songs, then, Scotch’s chat covers just about everything from chlamydia and Edinburgh trams, to the Scottish Government’s figures on men’s parental issues. Musically speaking, however, Dixie’s piece de resistance remains their ingenious reworking of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, and Fat Bottomed Girls no longer ride – they fly by the seat of their pants. Later, the hicks’ high level of musicianship is demonstrated to stunt-man effect when all four members help play each other’s instruments. And following a heart-breaking ballad that involves keeping your sweetheart’s doo-doo in a jar, the night is rounded off with the customary duelling banjos routine.

So, while Dixie’s seed may have withered some, as long as breweries continue fermenting beer, these weapons of bluegrass destruction won’t be disappearing anytime soon.

Barry Gordon