Archived Arts & Entertainment

Hayseed’s latest falls flat on its grass

Some jokes are really, really funny. Some even get better with age, as if their repeated telling somehow increases the comic potency. Then again, some jokes just get beaten into the ground, weren’t that funny to begin with, or suffer in the hands of incompetent would-be comedians.

Which brings us to the new (or upcoming) album from “rockgrass” champions Hayseed Dixie, who are set to perform at Stella Blue in Asheville this Friday, Feb. 10. Having staked out a career by doing high-octane bluegrass covers of AC/DC and KISS tunes, this particular outing finds their sights turned on Led Zeppelin, Motorhead, Green Day and Van Halen, among others.

The good news is that these guys are far from even resembling incompetent. In fact, they can play their butts off. Deacon Dale Reno positively burns the mandolin up, and Reverend Don Wayne Reno likewise tears a hole in his banjo — possibly in a literal sense considering the reported amount of alcohol consumed by the boys of Hayseed Dixie on a daily basis.

It’s odd to hear Black Sabbath subjected to bluegrass abuse, as on Hayseed Dixie’s cover of “War Pigs.” Just like it’s odd to hear “Ace Of Spades” (don’t think Lemmy ever imagined banjo on that one) or mildly entertaining on any of the other classic FM radio gems the band can get their hands on.

But the shtick really can only go so far, can’t it? The whole drunken-rebel-redneck-misogynist-bluegrass/rocker thing’s got to have a limited shelf life, right? I realize the image, heck the whole thing is mostly tongue in cheek (or I truly hope so) but between the Daisy Dukes-clad, ass-in-your-face album cover and the collection of bra-clad breasts on the CD itself (some of which are mannequins), I imagine these guys will alienate all but the most diehard fans of whatever it is they do. After checking the current tour itinerary for Hayseed Dixie, it seems they have a surplus of such fans, so it’s probably not an issue.

And yes, I can take a joke. This one just wears out its welcome awfully early.

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The second, mostly original half of A Hot Piece of Grass redeems itself somewhat. “Blind Beggar Breakdown” is a killer piece of music, careening at breakneck speed through some unexpected textures. But “Kirby Hill” comes off as a poor man’s Steve Earle, paling in comparison, as does Hayseed Dixie’s tweaking of the classic “Rye Whiskey” in their original “Corn Liquor.”

“Marijuana” mines the reggae-flavored country feel that failed miserably for Willie, and it fares only a bit better for Hayseed Dixie. “Moonshiner’s Daughter” continues the less-than-tasteless double entendres as expected after the equally goofball “Mountain Man.” It’s as if the music wants to work, but these guys can’t let the Appalachian tough guy thing drop long enough to let a real song happen.

It’s an acquired taste, I imagine. Possibly partaking in some corn liquor and other such social lubricants loosens things up to the point that this stuff is consistently entertaining. As it is, Hayseed Dixie delivers exactly what you would expect on A Hot Piece of Grass, and depending on your personal definition of “taste” this can be either good or very, very bad. All I know is I’ve got a nice, shiny new coaster to rest my drink of choice upon. At least we share similar tastes in beer. Thus, Hayseed Dixie earns 4 stars for the musicianship, and -5 stars for everything else, resulting in an overall rating of –1 star. Oops.


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