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Hackensaw Boys (from the album Hackensaw Boys on Hackensaw Boys/Sun’s Work Records) (by Lee Zimmerman)
Throughout the length and breadth of their combined career, the Hackensaw Boys have maintained a genuine rootsy regimen, one that’s found them adhering to the basics of bluegrass, classic country and a sound shaped by heartland happenstance.
Their new eponymous album doesn’t mark any huge shift in stance, but it does signal a desire to channel more populist appeal, courtesy of songs that are flush with eager affirmation and immediate accessibility. The Punk precepts that informed their earlier outings has dissipated to a great degree, and while their music can hardly be called mainstream in the usual sense, it does provide a more open invitation as far as any overall acceptance is concerned. The empathetic opener, “Things We’re Doing”, sets the tone:
‘We all have things we are doing
We all have places we are going
No one wants to come in last
No one wants to live in the past’
That’s an apt mantra given their shift in stance, and it’s to their credit that they haven’t neglected their homespun homilies entirely. Fiddle, mandolin, banjo, bouzouki, and harmonica still play a prominent role in the proceedings, but their earnest intents now come to the fore in a more deliberate manner. The determined delivery of “The Weights”, the rambling tack taken by “Cages We’re Grown In”, and the sympathetic sway of “My Turn” make that consideration clear, and the effect is not only more emphatic, but remarkably resilient as well. The songs stand out, each on its own, and the result is a markedly mature album that ranks as easily their best effort yet.
Then again, it’s certainly no accident. Founding member, guitarist, singer, and songwriter David Sickmen found himself at a moment of reckoning, the result of a six-year hiatus, a change in band personnel, and the necessity to undergo surgery due to problems with his vocal polyps. It left him with a need to write songs infused an absolute honesty, a sensibility that transcends these tunes while making them come across sounding all the more inspired and engaging as well. So too, the band has never sounded as confident, and when they tackle a cover of the Bob Dylan classic, “All I Really Want to Do”, there’s no pronounced difference in either quality or commitment.
Ultimately, it’s apt that Hackensaw Boys serves as the title of this album. It is, in fact, a new leap forward, and the group’s current identity deserves to be well inscribed. (by Lee Zimmerman)
Listen and buy the music of Hackensaw Boys from AMAZON
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