Just to kick this review off, band and audience were smoking in the over two hour show The Hackensaw Boys gave in the Q-Bus on Thursday 14 June. Back for the first time since the two shows in 2004 that introduced me to the band and made me a great fan.
Within the band hardly anything is the same, but what hasn't changed is that the music the band plays touches as well as enthuses people. With one main difference since 2004: the band clearly has a fan base in The Netherlands and one that is growing as I saw a several parents with children and under 20 kids in the audience. And quite rightly so!
Having seen the band play many times through the years a few things fell to my attention. Perhaps there have been too many changes in the band in too short a time as the hierarchy was upset in a visible way or better there clearly was a hierarchy where this was missing before. This made the band less of a unity than before, not the one engine machine made up out of six different parts. The other was that the diversity in the music itself was missing as the solos on mandolin, harmonica and banjo were mostly missing. Tour manager Thomas Wevers was added to the line up on mandolin and banjo and did a great job, but was serving as were the other new(er) members. Two acoustic guitars and two fiddles do not make up for that. The moment I started noticing this, somewhere around three quarters to an hour into the show, something happened: the magic kicked in that gives this band the extra. Energy pulsing from the stage and back to the stage from the audience. I did not give a single thought to the lack of diversity after that.
What it did do, is that it sounded even more classic American folk than before, for all I know as a Dutch outsider that is. The fiddle being more dominant, the thought of square dancing at small town country fairs in the 19th century was never far away. This is only one of the strengths of the band though, as they also muster some great songs, ballads and "serious" songs which depict certain moods perfectly. People can party and listen at the same time and do.
The Hackensaw Boys' great trick of speeding up during songs was displayed a few times. Despite being a guitar player myself, I always look in awe at the speed of playing and I'm plain glad that it's not me keeping time up there.
So after circa two hours, curfew time set in in the Q-Bus and the band got off stage and played on acoustically in between the audience for two songs and then it really was over. "What kind of venue is this"? asked one band member to me after the show, as if they had wanted to play on for another hour or so. And who knows, perhaps they did. All were clearly having a very good time.
And now we will have to see in which the way the band will evolve. Up to now it has survived all changes. I will be there at the next step.
There's more on WoNo Magazine's blog on The Hackensaw Boys read:
- the review of their latest EPs here
- an interview with Ward Harrison here
- an interview with David Sickmen here