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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Review: Two High String Band - Hot Texas Bluegrass Burrito

Two High String Band - Hot Texas Bluegrass Burrito
2009, Two High String Band

Two High String Band might be the highest profile bluegrass band to come out of the small but burgeoning Austin, Texas Bluegrass scene. After a dozen years touring and making music inspired by Bluegrass, the band decided to jump in with both hands and feet and get to the heart of the form that inspired them. Longtime members Billy Bright (mandolin, vox); Brian Smith (guitar, vox) and Geoff Union (guitar, vocals) enlisted the assistance of banjo legend Alan Munde (Flying Burrito Brothers, Jimmy Martin, Country Gazette), Mark Rubin (Bad Livers) and Mark Rubin. The resulting CD, Hot Texas Bluegrass Burrito, is a treat.

Hot Texas Bluegrass Burrito opens with Hello City Limits and its outrageous banjo work. The song has an old-time bluegrass feel to it and correlates leaving home with leaving your troubles behind. It's a song full of the vigor and narrow vision of youth. High On The Ohio is a fun tune for the campfire at Folk and Bluegrass festivals, and raises the profile and potential uses for Kentucky Bluegrass as an open question. Ferris Wheel is a gem of a song that harkens back to a day when the fair was THE event of the summer. Many big city dreams were born at the fair; Ferris Wheel tells one such tale. Jerusalem Cafe is an outstanding instrumental piece blending middle eastern themes with Bluegrass in an unusual and welcome treat. Lazy Bird takes a different tack, blending jazz and Easy Listening styles with bluegrass in an instrumental tune you'll want to revisit several times over. E. Compton Blues opens with what might be described as a Surf Banjo style; evolving into one of the most interesting and sonically exciting banjo/violin duos I've ever heard. I've Just Seen The Rock Of Ages is an amazing traditional styled gospel tune full of gorgeous harmonies and instrumentation as tight and perfect as creation on the seventh day The album closes out with Over And Out, a devilishly good finger-picking tune for guitar with banjo, violin and bass holding down the fort. Be sure to also check out Many Paths Along The Way, Spirit Of '94 and Waltz Into Morning.

With many bows of "We're Not Worthy", I give all due respect to Two High String Band. Instrumentally, I'd put them up against any outfit going in Bluegrass music. The willingness to experiment with the blending of other genres may not appeal to the traditionalist bent in the Bluegrass community, but these guys are world-class musicians. There are one or two tunes here that don't spark the applause-o-meter much either way, but even then you have to respect the musicianship, which never falters from start to finish. Hot Texas Bluegrass Burrito is essential listening whether you're a fan of Bluegrass or not. Two High String Band offer a master class not only in how to play, but how to play together and become more than the sum of your parts. Make sure you check out Hot Texas Bluegrass Burrito. It's an experience.

Rating: 4.5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about Two High String Band at or You can purchase a copy of Hot Texas Bluegrass Burrito at

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