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Hamilton County - Brokedown Breakdown

Brokedown Breakdown

Hamilton County

Available from CD Baby.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker

Holy schlamoley! A prog-grass power trio? Yep, and just in time, too. With all the unbelievably great vocal work being trotted out by Pinecastle and a bunch of other impeccably discerning labels, we really needed a good all-instrumental release to drag the direction back a little more over to the chops. Sure, Dave Parmley & Continental Divide can play the bejeezus out of their axes as well as sing their hearts out, but Hamilton County knuckles down to just strings and zeroes in on the other heart of 'grass: pickin', pickin', and more pickin'.

These lads look to be about a half or a third the age of the genre's estimables but don't let the dustjacket dictate the book for ya; they know their work top to bottom and crank out complex, tight, and jumpin' tunes ranging from gypsy jazz to Appalachian breakdowns. Think back to when we were all first discovering Kottke, Fahey, Lang, the Scruggs, and you'll have an idea of how cutting edge the band is. They don't throw the baby out with the bathwater but rather lave the child in exotic bath salts, bubbles, and a high-kickin' joyous splash fight or two, courtesy of just three instrments: guitar, standup bass, and mandolin. You'll swear there's a sextet here, but 'taint so, MacGruder, these boys merely get to business like a pack of bees. Correctly, they're compared to Béla Fleck and David Grisman.

The interplay on, for instance, 6 Potato is a joy to behold (er…behear?) as the gents interlace themselves like a mandala, quoting, requoting, and improvising around the central theme. Then there's the Grapelli-esque Onion People and its mixture of Parisian hot jazz and Tennessee git-down. In fact, not one cut is less than compelling. Even the balladic grooves like Katherine have their subtle nuances and unusual modal changes, one moment Andy Griffith-ish, then off for an extrapolation on some idea or aspect before returning to Aunt Bee's for apple pie and a haircut from Floyd the Barber.

Track List:

  • Brokedown Breakdown (Bob Hamilton)
  • Away (Evan Chase)
  • 6 Potato (Bob Hamilton)
  • Orpheus Walk (Evan Chase)
  • Borrowed Banjo Breakdown(Hamilton / Chase)
  • Space Bar (Bob Hamilton)
  • Onion People (Bob Hamilton)
  • Suha (Evan Chase)
  • Katharine (Evan Chase)
  • Haven't Brushed my Teeth Today / Soldier Joy (Bob Hamilton)
  • Schlomo (Evan Chase)

Edited by: David N. Pyles


Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

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