The joy of hearing Hayseed Dixie for the first time is the realisation that the name is a play on AC/DC and this is not going to be normal bluegrass (or should I say this ain’t gonna be no regular bluegrass, y’all).
This was not the first time I had seen them, so I knew what to expect. Indeed, it was not even the first time for the venue – Fairport’s Cropredy Convention, the annual get together for folk, folk rock, country and rock that folk-rockers Fairport Convention host in the Oxfordshire countryside. Thursday night’s performance did not disappoint – a rollicking set of fine musicianship mixed with wit and, dare I say it, cultural satire.
The band had a different lineup from the last time but was still led by the overpowering (in the best way) John Wheeler (aka Barley Scotch, pictured above). You could not tell, with perhaps the exception of Hippy Joe Hymas, who never stopped moving, sticking his tongue out and waving his butt all the while he was hammering out some fantastic mandolin. The crowd loved it. Hell-raising at its best.
A few po-faced bluegrass traditionalists may be appalled, but the gig proved again without a doubt that the genre is highly adaptable to other forms. From “Eye of the Tiger” to “Highway to Hell” – which Wheeler says is the same road as “Brother” Hank Williams’ “Lost Highway” – the set was a rollicking celebration. If any of you have a must-see song bucket list, as I do, may I suggest you add Hayseed’s rendition of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” to the mix. It is a murder song, after all, meeting at least one bluegrass criterion.
Wheeler’s repartee punctuated the fine musicianship throughout, including a bit of faux-Southern preaching and cleverly tricking the crowd into shouting “Sieg Heil” to show how easy it it to get people to do that. His reference to the evil Designated Hitter may have gone over most British heads (as he expected) but he was rude about one of England’s most controversial politicans, Nigel Farage, a moment that went down well.
But the music had people hopping and bopping. It was cracking, chaps (Trans: Hot shit, dudes).