Two High String Band: Hot Texas Bluegrass Burrito

By: Sarah Hagerman

Hot Texas Bluegrass Burrito is bluegrass without fuss or pretension, rumbling across the Texas Hill Country's rugged limestone rises. The group assembled for this outing of Two High represents a who's- who of Central Texas talent, with core trio of Billy Bright (mandolin, vocals), Brian Smith (finger-picking guitar, vocals), and Geoff Union (flat-picking guitar, vocals) joined by storied bluegrass patriarch Alan Munde (banjo; Jimmy Martin, Flying Bluegrass Burrito Brothers, Country Gazette), Eric Hokkanen (fiddle; Austin's eclectic and otherworldly maestro), and Mark Rubin (bass, vocals; Bad Livers co-founder), bringing his signature distinguished edge.

The musicianship here then is nothing short of stellar, every note turning and moving with breathless revelry. Infused with a timeless sensibility, the original songs stand up on strong legs next to choice covers like "Hello City Limits" (Johnny Elgin and Benny Martin) and Coltrane's "Lazy Bird," featuring Munde's tumbling, throaty banjo. Bright's Hartford-esque "High on the Ohio," skims leisurely across the cold river water, Hokkannen's fiddle skipping over the surface with dragonfly flits, while "E. Compton Blues" has an instantly addictive hook with enough space for each player to step around the twisting mando line; time should see it christened canonical. Union's "Ferris Wheel" captures the childlike excitement of a traveling fair rolling through a small town with picking that whirls with midway colors, and "Spirit of '94" (about the Whiskey Rebellion) offers a gritty history lesson. To borrow a line from "Ohio," Two High's hearts are grounded "where they know what bluegrass is/ And they know what bluegrass ain't." Keeping it that simple sure sounds bloody grand.

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[Published on: 12/14/09]

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