Hot Day at the Zoo: Long Way Home

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
Johnny D's
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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[Published on: 1/14/09]

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Juan starstarstarstarstar Wed 1/14/2009 07:24PM
+3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


great review and great band! Smokin' band actually.

I stumbled upon these guys in the campground at Mountain Jam and was blown away by the spicy pickin and lyrics. It was a most pleasant surprise!

Check these cats out for sure!

Om shantih

John Smrtic

schofizzl Thu 1/15/2009 01:13AM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


thats a pretty good ol' timey song, but i think the mando player's hat is what truly ties the band together, lol.

jivetalkinphil starstarstarstarstar Thu 1/15/2009 07:59AM
+3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

These guys are great, I've seen them 3-4 times in the last two years. The addition of Jimmy Ryan on the mandolin has really boosted the level of what they are achieving lately. Their show at TT's in November was great.

Jive Talkin Phil

n-1 starstarstarstarstar Thu 1/15/2009 09:12AM
+4 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

review from the heart, the only review ive ever known.

n-1 starstarstarstarstar Thu 1/15/2009 09:13AM
+4 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Bluegrass makes the world a safer place

hallstallion starstarstarstarstar Thu 1/15/2009 09:31AM
+3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Great review. Great band. To top it off, every member in the band are down to earth, friendly and "as cool as Tuesday" :)

Mriddle440 Thu 1/15/2009 11:25AM
+3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


Hell yes, have seen these guys a handful of times. Got to love that Hot Zoo!

funkluvah starstarstarstarstar Thu 1/15/2009 02:29PM
+3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

spot on review of a killer disc from some awesome guys!! no live shows EVER dissappoint and tonight at Johnny D's is gonna be off the charts!! the people who book that room will wish they booked them prior to this evening!!

spinnindaisy starstarstarstarstar Tue 1/20/2009 03:04PM
+3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


perfect review...

i LOVE LOVE LOVE these guys!!!

ive have seen them all over (ny, nj, pa, ma, nh) and cant wait till the next time...

GO see WONT be disappointed!!