By: Dennis Cook
The best compliment one can pay an EP is that it leaves you hungry for more from the band. That's an easy compliment to give first rate string band and songwriters Hot Day at the Zoo's five-track salvo, Long Way Home (self-released), which begins with the satisfying rumble of a train. Then, a voice beamed in through an ol' fangled radio mic says, "I've been hating this here town since I was five-years-old/ I'm a lonesome forty-niner, babe/ I'm going down the road and not coming back no more." Tough as rail ties, the opener gives way to the title cut, a gentle heartbreaker that gives Old Crow and Chatham County Line a run for their money. "Long Way Home" captures the reverie of the road in a succinct, wonderfully understated way. It's clear these boys are primo pickers but they're developing a strong sense of where to cut back so the songs shine. It's something a lot of string bands don't get, strumming so hard you can't help but notice the player at the expense of the tune. "Lost," a fast outlaw number, follows and begins with the irresistible line, "Let me tell you a tale of a life gone wrong." Perhaps the EP's standout, "Outside Lookin' In" is the kind of hollered philosophy that's gotta be great guns live, with band and audience shouting, "There were times in my life I wish I'd died/ And there were times in my life I wish I'd tried/ And there were times in my life, yes, I wish I did it right/ now I'm on the outside lookin' in." In tone and delivery it's reminiscent of Robert Hunter & Jerry Garcia in their early '70s heyday, a cut worthy of American Beauty/Workingman's Dead. The slightly drunk stand-up bass section only adds to "Outside's" pleasure. Closer "Wheel" floats in Old & In The Way territory, the sort of defiantly battered road song that Grisman and Rowan could make some serious hay on. And then it's over and you're salivating for another taste. New arrivals to the Zoo can jump backwards to their great debut album (see JamBase's review here). The rest of us can just sit impatiently outside their chicken shack door and listen for the next sweet pluckings. Make it soon, boys, you got some fans anxious for more.
The band celebrates their 6th anniversary this week in the Boston area. Here are the show details:
Thursday, January 15th, 2009
6 Year Anniversary Show!!! - 9:00pm
17 Holland St., Somerville, MA 02144
Here's HDATZ playing "Wheel" at the Lowell Jambraree
JamBase | Massachusetts
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