String band fever. It's an epidemic. Yonder Mountain, the Hackensaw Boys, Shout Lulu…the list goes on. Add the Mayhem String Band to the list because they are gen-you-wine. (Or, as they might say, 'jen-yoo-wahn'). To my knowledge, they are presently strutting their stuff across Colorado, ol' Ferd Moyse from the Hackensaw Boys in tow, regaling high desert and Colorado's version of mountain folk alike with their brand of mountain music, although maybe it should not be labeled such. These boys are from Mississippi and I could be wrong, but I've not heard much about Mississippi mountains. Wallers, yes. Mountains, no.
No matter. These guys kick old-timey ass in a big way, make no mistake. This is barn, mountain and jig music—and jug, too, though I hear no jug anywhere. But like I said, it doesn't matter. When these guys start playing, the toes start tapping and the feet shuffle. It's downright infectious. I mean, they capture the entire spirit of The Darlin' Boys (portrayed by the Dillards on The Andy Griffith Show) but without the extremes. Hearing them, you immediately get the feeling that they might be hilarious on the stage. On the CD, they are about the music.
Youngsters may not know this, but in the old days not all people knew how to dance—well, not by city standards. They didn't have time to learn and many probably didn't want to. A little boot-stompin', a shuffle or a mild sway did for many. Others knew only the two-step or the waltz. Ever notice how much of the old-time music is in 2/2 or 3/4 time? There is a reason.
This album is packed with modern-but-authentic old-timey stuff, all of it reeking of barn dance. Slow waltz (Comoto Waltz). Fast waltz (Sins of Her Sisters). Two-step (and a fast one—Satan's Bait). Regular two-step (Joy and Pain, which has an eerily close resemblance to what the Grateful Dead used to play at times). And the obligatory hoe-down (Fly Around My Pretty Little Pink, a very Darlin' Boys arrangement).
The album is wrapped up with (HiddenTrack), recorded live in some old-timers' house, it sounds like, the end of an instrumental version of what became The Battle of New Orleans (hell, maybe the original is called that, I don't know), and followed by a conversation. There's where you hear the real Mayhem String Band. They have to go into town to play that night and "make all that big money—tens and tens of dollars." It's that spirit which will keep mountain music, old-timey music—call it what you like—alive. It's funny, it's good, but more than that, it is fun!
I'm not heading into town, myself. I'm staying home. I plan on putting Land Pirates in the CD player, putting my feet up, popping open a can of Gordon Ale (Big! Red!! Sticky!!! and one of Oskar Blues' excellent Colorado microbrews and, yes, I did say 'can') and cranking it up. By the third can, in my head, I'll be dancing plenty good. You can't help it. These guys are just plain good.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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