Mayhem String Band plays Saturday in Steamboat
October 23, 2009
Steamboat Springs — Several years back, Mississippi native J.T. Lack got addicted to “Grassroots,” a Saturday night radio show that featured raw, old-school bluegrass.
Playing tracks from the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s by bluegrass pioneers such as Bill Monroe, the radio show was Lack’s introduction to bluegrass music. It got him listening, endeared him to Monroe’s gravelly style, and started him playing the banjo.
“I was not playing anything. I didn’t play anything until I was about 18, and in a monument to redneck-ness everywhere, the banjo was my first instrument,” Lack said in a phone interview.
Recently, “Grassroots” has been playing tracks from “Land Pirates,” the second studio release from Lack’s bluegrass and country group Mayhem String Band. The Oxford, Miss.-based band plays a free show at 10 p.m. Saturday at Mahogany Ridge Brewery and Grill.
“We probably sound a little hicked out, a little more hillbilly. There’s a rawness and we aim to keep to it,” Lack said about the band’s approach to country-style bluegrass.
Mayhem String Band’s lineup for Saturday’s show includes three Mississippi natives, one player from Detroit and one from Boulder. The group is Lack on banjo and vocals; Chris Steiner on guitar and vocals; Ben Johnson on bass and vocals; and Kevin Larkin on mandolin, harmonica, accordion and vocals. Ferd Moyse, of the Charlottesville, Va., folk band The Hackensaw Boys, joins Mayhem on fiddle.
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In their four years playing as a group, the musicians of Mayhem String Band have tightened their playing, but they don’t have any interest in smoothing out the result to sound like Alison Krauss or other popular bluegrass artists.
“That aspect of it is inherent in us. In the four or five guys who happen to be in this band, nobody wants to sound any different, we all kind of agree on that. It’s just how we all sound,” Lack said about keeping Mayhem’s rough edge.
The band released its first record, “Rapscallions and Ne’erdowells” in 2007 and put out its second album, “Land Pirates,” in March. Jimbo Mathus, of Delta Recording Services and the 1990s swing band Squirrel Nut Zippers, produced “Land Pirates.”
For the Saturday show, Lack said to expect “a lot of mandolin and banjo picking and some pretty hot fiddling” in a set of original tunes that can tend get raucous by the end of the night.
“Even if you don’t know that you like bluegrass music or you’re not really sure about it or you don’t know what it is, if you have a soul or a heart it’s going to have you tapping your foot just a little bit, at least,” he said.
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