Live at the Freight and Salvage – Hot Buttered Rum String Band
The name Hot Buttered Rum String Band could be deemed ostensibly misleading.
Sure, the obligatory mandolin, guitar and bass troika comprise
three-quarters of this quartet, but even then some aspects belie their
eponym. The bass playing falls somewhere between Charlie Haden and Edgar
Meyer, a style more jazz and classical then bluegrass and folk. Further
addling, the band's lead improvisational voice is typically a wind
instrument, most notably flute or clarinet, thus placing the group far from
the banal associations of the standard string band.
A cursory listen might align them with David Grisman's swing-derived sound,
"dawg music". Similarities can be located between Erik Yate's flute playing
and David Grisman Quintet veteran Matt Eakle's mellifluous style,
unequivocally noticeable on the band's jazz/celtic performance of
"Red-Haired Boy". An even more limpid comparison occurs with the group's
original track, "Warm-up", which carries the pleasantness of a current DGQ
performance, complete with an inspiring mandolin and flute duel.
However, what seemed like simple categorization, labeling the quartet
"progenitors of Grisman's novel blend," suddenly becomes a more time
consuming task once the vocals commence.
If endowed with a quick enough wrist, I might tag the disc with some hip
classification such as "acoustic-celtic-jazz-folk-funk-rock-sans drums with
a pinch of the Beatles". One can locate John Prine in their original
composition "The Trial of John Walker Lindh", which has a passing similarity
to Prine's satirical commentary on "Come Back to us Barbara Lewis Hare
Krishna Beauregard". Likewise, references to the Beatles surface not only in
their stunning cover of "Norwegian Wood", but also in their original
compositions "Naked Blue" and "The Crest". Lastly, in the quartet's
improvisations, such as the 20 minute "Norwegian Wood > Warm Up > Naked
Blue" the use of tone, speed, and space instigates similarities to Van
Morrisons flute led, Celtic-jazz expositions on his classic 1968 release
As a result, the Hot Buttered Rum String Band sounds more inspiring then the
current bumper crop of folk-based acts. In the fickle, newfangled world of
"jamgrass", this release should augur well for their future, even if they
never live up to the string band title.