Various Artists

Various Artists
Hiram and Huddie

Hillgrass Bluebilly Records (B001TXQ8H6)

By Elliott Morehardt
December 2010

This isn’t the typical throw-away compilation you’ll find in the two-dollar bins of your local CD outlet. Four years in the making, this Hillgrass Bluebilly recording brings together some of the best young talent to pay homage to the masters Hank Williams Sr. and Huddie “Leadbelly” Ledbetter. The Hiram and Huddie double tribute CD brings true authenticity, while feeling like a trip down memory lane via a Twilight Zone episode of Hee Haw! The vast archives of Hank and Huddie have provided some scratchy vinyl stimulus to these bluebilly/punkabilly/psychobilly musicians who seem hell-bent on raising those legendary spirits from the ground and giving us renewed faith in real American music. You may have to go to a back-alley club, vintage hot-rod meet, or some other nostalgia event to hear them, but that’s where you’ll find these bands that are so heavily influenced by great American traditional music.

The first CD contains covers of Hank Williams’ tunes and starts off with the classic, “Ponchartrain,” done beautifully by Possessed by Paul James. The next tracks, “Lost Highway” by Scott Biram and “Ramblin Man” by Soda, show off some outstanding vintage-style production. “Mother Gone” by William Elliott Whitmore has enough depth to make the most hardened soul shed a tear. Another gem is “Howlin at the Moon” by Truckstop Honeymoon, adding some talented comic relief. The last tune of the Hank tribute, “Settin the Woods on Fire” by Bob Log III, brings us right back into the twilight zone with some cool Beefhart-esque timing.

Leadbelly gets into my gut about as deep as deep blues go, and there are some real treasures among this 2nd CD. Every band does their own unique tribute, not by copying the master, but delivering their own inspired vision. “Gallis Pole” by Willam Elliott Whitmore is in the true story style Leadbelly would be proud of. “In New Orleans” by C.W. Stoneking reminds us just how beautiful those lyrics are. “Bourgeois Blues (Town)” by Possessed by Paul James, is a heartfelt and angry ode to racism, as relevant as ever. “Goodnight Irene” by Wayne “The Train” Hancock still haunts us with some superbly tight vocals and instrumentals. A dose of psychobilly is in order with “Bottle Up and Go” by Jawbone, while Soda performs a dark gothic, industrial-tinged rendition of “Old Riley” guaranteed to give one a few chills. The CD ends with a super clean and fast production of “Pick a Bail of Cotton” by Flathead, leaving you ready to get on the Ol’ Ponchatrain with Hank all over again!

Watch for the Hillgrass Bluebilly folks to do this all again with a tribute to Johnny Cash and R.L. Burnside coming up in 2011!

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