Viper Central: The Devil Sure Is Hard To Please
Well, I hadn’t been listening to bluegrass/Appalachian music much recently but then, in the course of a few weeks, along come two albums to really freshen the appetite. First there was the Carolina Chocolate Drops and now there’s Vancouver’s Viper Central. Silly name, I know, but I believe they claim they were drunk at the time.
Anyway, there’s two girls and four guys in this band, formidable instrumentalists all, with an intimidating array of parallel interests and projects. This short-ish album came out in 2008, and apparently there’s a set of gospel music (Appalachian gospel, I presume) due for imminent release. The Devil Sure Is Hard To Please, they say, (it’s a line in Sadie’s Ghost, one of the many songs here brilliantly up-dating the tradition) but boy do they give it a try. This is blistering bluegrass, original, fresh and energetic. Just what the genre needs to steer it between the twin rocks of ossification and commercial, mall-friendly pap.
There’s significant individual contributions from everybody in the band, whether it’s featured solos, songwriting or singing the lead. Just eight tracks, only one of which is non-original, and we get a bit of everything that makes bluegrass so enjoyable. There’s a couple of instrumentals, one of which (Devil In The Hourglass) is thrillingly and unbelievably fast, and five new songs that self-confidently carry the tradition forward. I’d probably make Tyler Rudolph (banjo, upright bass and vocals) the pick of the songwriting contributors; Shotgun Wedding and Sadie’s Ghost both epitomise this bands ability to operate within the tradition but not feel constricyed by it.
There’s fantastic playing from everybody in this band but Tim Tweedale’s dobro and steel playing , at times a dead ringer for Jerry Douglas’ style, is particularly enjoyable and I felt that Kathleen Nisbet’s fiddle playing was a distinctive contribution: smoother than is generally the vogue at the moment and it seems to be this that adds grace and even a little swing to this bands style.
Top notch bluegrass, then, and visiting the UK later this spring. Groovy doovy.
1. Shotgun Wedding 4:39
2. Gold Road 3:11
3. Mountain of Trouble 3:20
4. Down in West Virginia 3:49
5. Devil in the Hourglass 3:04
6. Roving Gambler 3:08
7. Sadie’s Ghost 4:47
8. Come Along 3:09
ON Tour in Europe through May FSR Tour Feature here http://flyinshoes.ning.com/profiles/blogs/viper-central-euro-dates