Multiinstrumentalist Michael Billmire, who's responsible for most of the non-bluegrass instruments, played everything from a child-size organ to a trumpet with its end submerged in a bowl of water. The latter gave certain songs a 1940s jazzy feel, showcasing the band's ability to dip in and out of various genres without losing itself. But the instruments aren't just spectacle--each one is needed for a particular sound, kneaded into a particular effect. Annie Crawford's violin alternately quakes and moans, a lovely complement to Hodnefield's wailing, lonesome saw. Serge van der Voo coaxes all of the percussive potential out of the double bass in pulses, thumps, and thwaps.
Although the performance is intense, it isn't super serious. These musicians know how to have a good time, and they even occasionally stray from their fine originals. They did a charming cover of Randy Newman's "Burn On" in three-part female harmony, with each of the vocalists also playing violin. They're playing at Top of the Park June 30, which should make for some fun old-fashioned outdoor entertainment.
[Originally published in June, 2010.]