The best way to describe the San Francisco-based Earl Brothers is that they are a rough-cob bluegrass band. It is a group that values the old sound, even the pre-bluegrass Charlie Poole-era. Some might say the Earl Brothers are too raw for a few musical taste buds. Still, on the new album Outlaw Hillbilly, they stick to their signature hardcore early-grass grooves.
To be sure, there are a few songs on Outlaw Hillbilly that don’t have much in the way of a “B” part, much less a third part. The first song, “Arkansas Line,” is a good example. Yet within the song’s single-riff trance, there is a certain power as it sets up an old-school murder song that doesn’t play around, with lyrics such as: “We had a fine home near the Arkansas line, but her family was wicked and got in the way/I regret the bad things I did that day/I stabbed her dear brother and cut off his head, and buried him deep so I knew he was dead.
All of the cuts on this album are originals and include the down-on-your-luck “Don’t Think Of Me Unkindly,” the romping “Cheater,” and “Hard Times Down The Road” with its infectious and unexpected bass line that I’d like to hear more of in the future. There is no doubt that listening to this recording a few times in a row might even have this ole Appalachian brush ape pulling his hair out a bit. Then again, this is a cool go-to tool in the music shed to grab when the current contemporary bluegrass gets too slick and glossy. (Earl Brothers, 72 Belcher St., San Francisco, CA 94114, www.earlbrothers.com.)DH