July 18, 2008

Albums Explore the Outer Limits of Genre: Bluegrass Notes

By Keith Lawrence, Messenger-Inquirer, Owensboro, Ky.

Jul. 18--Blind Corn Liquor Pickers. "Appalachian Trail." Blind Corn Music. 13 tracks.

If Bill Monroe, the daddy of bluegrass, had had an affair with a wild mountain woman, the Blind Corn Liquor Pickers would be the illegitimate offspring.

That's a compliment, by the way.

As its press kit says, the Lexington-based band fuses bluegrass with folk, swing, progressive rock, funk, jazz and styles that haven't even been named yet.

Beth Walker, the new lead singer, has to be heard to be believed. Think Janis Joplin reincarnated as a bluesy mountain singer.

Band members wrote or co-wrote all 13 tracks with lyrics that feel they like were lifted from a new-age Southern graphic novel.

Coal companies "chop off the heads" of mountains. A ex-miner dies alone drunk on a park bench while a bluegrass band plays. A drug war sees new-age revenuers blown to smithereens in a silo. And a corrupt sheriff is gunned down in a thunderstorm.

In "Party Down Below," Walker wails that if there are no gamblers, drunks and loose women in heaven, she'll just check out the party down below. In "Dirty Dog," she travels by bus across an America that's more than slightly out of kilter.

If you're looking for something different this summer, this is it.

Can't find it in stores? Try www.BlindCorn.com.

Red State Update. "How Freedom Sounds." Dualtone Music. 20 tracks.

While we're cruising through the outer limits of bluegrass, let's don't forget Red State Update, the brain child of YouTube and MySpace stars Travis Harmon and Jonathan Shockley.

Their redneck characters -- "Jackie Broyles" and "Dunlap" -- tackle life in the 21st century in "How Freedom Sounds."

It sounds pretty good, by the way.

The album -- the best thing to hit bluegrass since Elmo & Patsy -- is a mixture of political comedy and music, some of which is bluegrass or at least close.

In "Iraq (I Don't Wanna Go)," they lament that beer's hard to find over there. "Get The Hell Outta My Store Hippie" is almost bluegrass. And "Noodles, Powder, Water & Meat" can pass for grass.

Can't find it in stores? Try www.RedStateUpdate.com. You'll find the album and a lot more stuff there.


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