Issue December 6, 2011

Catch 23

The 23 String Band
SELF-RELEASED

Kentucky’s 23 String Band seem like a lot of guys we know and love around here — regular dudes with exceptional skill. Their bluegrass attack is fueled by high-octane rock ’n’ roll energy, skillfully guided here by producer Kevin Ratterman. A rascally sense of humor also helps distinguish them from some of their peers, dropping in quotes from other songs like jazz musicians and mimicking trains or jugbands or whatever else strikes their fancy. While some exponents of this genre can be overly reverential at times, the Strings are too raucous to settle for easy sentimentality or religiosity; they’re more about liquor and girls. The sources of their cover material here — including a John Hartford beauty and an early Tom Petty FM classic — indicate their relaxed attitude, though they put everything into these performances. Author Silas House, a better scribe than I, wrote, “Their shows are electrifying, their songwriting is top-notch, and their vocals are as tight as the cork in a jug of moonshine.” And we think you’ll agree.