Hot Buttered Rum: Well Oiled Machine

By Aaron Stein

Bluegrass is a blooming, living thing, sprouting all sorts of new tentacles, some of which stay close to home, some which become a new home for another colony of offspring, and some which sever ties almost altogether. Within each of these branches there are still dozens of types and brands, each with their own influences and followers. It’s not too important exactly where Hot Buttered Rum String Band resides on this knotty pine of a family tree. What is important is that they’re in there somewhere, that their branch is growing fat and long, and that they surely belong wherever it is they are found.

And probably the best place to find them is live, onstage, in front of an adoring audience, making exciting music in the moment. That’s a great place to be, an admirable place to thrive, in fact I can think of no better. The problem is that bands like HBRSB (I will only type that once, thank you!) need to make albums too, and sometimes albums don’t capture the magic that some bands like HBRSB have, which brings us to Well-Oiled Machine, their latest album. It’s a fine piece of work, and it sounds great. It’s just kind of “blah.” There’s nothing in the recording that sets it apart, that makes you feel like it’s on a unique branch of the tree, that oozes with the magic of a live performance. I listen to Well-Oiled Machine, and I don’t think “masterpiece,” nor do I think “I need to get out to a Hot Buttered show right now!” I think “generic bluegrass music.” It’s not progressive enough to show off any of the band's improvisational talents, and it’s not traditional enough to compete with the classics. There’s no sin in that – this is an album not for bluegrass fanatics or for music-lovers who can find what this album is dishing in more appealing forms from other parts of the bluegrass bush. But for those of you who can’t get enough fruit from the HBRSB branch in your daily diet, these pickin’s are just for you.

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[Published on: 3/15/06]

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tahoeJe2f starstar Thu 4/6/2006 03:43PM
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I am a huge HBR fan. I feel these guys are so creative and tallented and have an enormous amount of material that is in a class of its own. This is "High Altitude California Bluegrass" at its finest. I agree with one thing Mr. Stein stated, you must see these guys perform live before you make up your mind. They put on a great live show. Everyone I've turned on to the band is now a fan - including my 4-year-old son as well as his Grandmother! "Well-Oiled Machine" is a highly recommended album in my opinion as well as their other releases, "In These Parts" and "Live at the Freight & Salvage." My advice is to buy them all. And please support bands like HBR that allow taping and live show trading by purchasing their albums and going to their shows.

rowjimmytour star Thu 4/6/2006 09:04PM
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I also agree ya have to see HBRSB live but what is so attractive about their sound is that it appeals to all ages and the band is constantly upin' the ante w/ new material. This album is a snap shot of what HBRSB was all about in 06' but don't expect to hear that same sound down the road because the band is always churnin' new butter on the road and are more then wellin' to share a new batch of HBRSB.