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- 1) Dark and Weary World
- 2) Ghost
- 3) Kharma
- 4) Over Drivin' the Mic
- 5) Raleigh and Spencer
- 6) Koon Ass
- 7) She Don't Care About Me
- 8) Weather on the Wood
- 9) Summer Sunset
- 10) Delirium
- 11) Lady Be Good
- 12) No Baby Swings Like Mine
- 13) Bluegrass in the Backwoods
Call the music of the South Austin Jug Band whatever you like: bluegrass or newgrass, neo-Jug, acoustic country-folk, Texas roots unplugged, swinging Lone Star beatnik country or anything else that strikes you. The sprightly picking and fiddling and the quintet’s witty original songs and choice covers make their sound defy easy pigeonholing while passing through countless categories. But just don’t call this rising band late to the stage for their burgeoning slate of gigs around the Lone Star State and at clubs and festivals across North America.
With their eponymous debut studio album, the South Austin Jug Band (SAJB) captured on disc the almost indescribably alluring charm that has made them the toast of perhaps the most musical town in America. It was produced by Lloyd Maines, whose many credits include the multi-million selling Home by The Dixie Chicks as well as albums by Texas legends like Robert Earl Keen and Ray Wylie Hubbard. Mixing songs by Jimi Hendrix and Walter Hyatt with traditional numbers and SAJB originals, it’s a veritable weekend acoustic music festival packed into a 12 song CD.
While SAJB doesn’t feature a jug – the name comes from the Muppets movie “Emmett Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas” – the group does reside and record in Austin, TX on the South side of the Colorado River (known as the city’s more soulful domain). And there is a populist and traditional jug band spirit in the way the group makes music for the sheer joy of doing so, though SAJB are definitely a “jug band” for the 21st Century.
The group came together as a pick-up band for a gig by SAJB singer, songwriter and guitarist James Hyland when the band he was playing with started to fall apart. Hyland called in bassist Will Dupuy and mandolinist Matt Slusher to join guitarist Willie Pipkin and fiddler Warren Hood, and something magic happened. “It wasn’t like the first gig was that good,” recalls Hyland. “But everybody had a good time.”
Such a good time, in fact, that the outfit started playing together all the time. Over the months that followed, the musicians delved deeper into bluegrass, string band and swing influences as the line-up coalesced into a genuine band. Fun was the mission statement, and they were having lots of it playing together.
The band landed a weekly gig at the Austin club Momo’s and began to grow into a popular local phenomenon. A limited edition live album recorded at Momo’s, Pickin’ & Grinnin’, found them mixing songs by Walter Hyatt, Bob Wills, Jerry Garcia, Ernest Tubb and Townes Van Zandt with traditional numbers and charming originals as if their style was one big genre all its own.
When Warren Hood left the band to attend Berklee College of Music, they barely missed a beat when Dennis Ludiker stepped in. A native of Washington State raised in a family of fiddlers, he moved to Austin on a hunch just in time to fill the SAJB fiddle slot. Launched onto the road by their Austin popularity, SAJB won the band contest at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in the summer of 2002 followed by Ludiker taking top honors at the prestigious Winfield fiddle competition.
Now the Jug Band has a new face joining them as they set out across the country. Dennis Ludiker has moved on to mandolin from fiddle, and 19 year old phenom Bryan Beken has taken the helm at fiddle. Bryan won the 2004 Texas State Flat-Picking Championship and the Texas State Junior Fiddle contest. His style of Texas fiddle is a welcome addition to the band. Dennis will not be leaving fiddle duties all together; the boys are playing twin fiddle on a number of songs.
In March of 2005, South Austin Jug Band won Best Bluegrass Band at the prestigious Austin Music Awards during SXSW.
If categorizing or describing the sound and style of the South Austin Jug Band is a daunting task, maybe it’s because what’s important is how the music feels to the band and its growing legion of listeners. It’s the South Austin Jug Band. Just go with the flow.