FAME Review: Brushfire Stankgrass - Microclimates
Brushfire Stankgrass - Microclimates


Brushfire Stankgrass

Available from Brushfire Stankgrass's Bandcamp page.

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

Besides possessing one of the coolest band names to come down the pike in quite some time, Brushfire Stankgrass is about as evolutionary as you can get in prog-grass without becoming Mahavishnu Orchestra, Gentle Giant, Primus, or some finger-tangled newfangled ensemble like that there, Homer. In fact, I typify this quartet of talented grinning upstarts as Stringcheese Incident meets Sleepytime Gorilla Museum meets the Scruggs outfit with Primus and Phish overtones. That means you can also expect Americana-ized Zappa-isms and what might even pass as neoclassical bluegrass, wherein one begins, as I did, to realize that celebrated style of art may very well be the Stateside echo of India's Carnatic music (think about it, it'll come to you).

Prepare yourself for a hellishly cool potpourri of influences and styles—catch Down Time and see if you can tell me what mode that is, I dare ya—within a friendly, happy, often humorous, sometimes smirking 'git up 'n move them feets' uptempo atmosphere. Tons of solos and improv sit side by side with a highly Trey Anastasiosized vocal delivery of lyrics by banjo player Ben Saylor (who has the most ostinato'ed presence on the instrument I've ever heard in my life—quick! someone get ahold of Eric Bloom and tell him there's finally a 'stun banjo' in music). Ah, but repeating chords and single-note riffs aren't all he shows us. Every player here came loaded for bear and plays his brains out in highly structured complicated settings that nonetheless rest easy on the ear while you reach for another jug of Kickapoo Joy Juice.

Take a listen to the instrumental Hippies' Hornpipe and you'll see why Alvin Lee joined in with the Scruggs gang for a spell (and much too briefly, as far as I'm concerned). That kind of stuff is hypnotic and fun. Will Saylor, Ben's bro, is a clever and variegated guitar player, tossing in endless timbres and colorations. The band's accompanied by a number of equally adept sessioneers and the whole affair emerges as endlessly engaging, indulgents in the risingly popular jamband tradition started in the 70s with Man (Be Good to Yourself at Least Once a Day their finest) and other ensembles. With music like this, don't ever fear that the fun, the dazzle, or the downhome rockin' have ever gone out of music. Despite the screaming boredom of mainsream charts, there's a wealth of truly satisfying music floating around. If Microclimates doesn't convince you of that, then you have no business reading critiques in this forum. Try Rolling Yawwwwwwwwwn Stone instead.

Track List:

  • Microclimates
  • Moonlight On the Camp
  • Lucid Dream
  • Long Gone
  • Yellow Birch
  • Down Time
  • California Knows How to Party
  • Hippies Hornpipe
  • The Craving
  • Proving
  • Satisfied
  • Redneck Fairytales

Edited by: David N. Pyles

Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
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