Rychard Carrington reports on Hayseed Dixie and Tenpole Tudor – The Junction, Cambridge, 17 March 2010

Hayseed Dixie
Junction 1, The


Tenpole Tudor (aka Eddie Tenpole) is spirited, and refreshingly old-fashioned. Somewhat resembling a Teddy Boy, he could be playing at the end of a pier, or at a holiday camp: a rock'n'roller-cum-children's-entertainer. At times I wished for a rock band to flesh out the sound of has battered acoustic guitar, but there's something valiant about a lone entertainer on stage, especially in the support slot, and Mr. Tudor is nothing if not valiant. He received the good reception he deserved.


Singer Barley Scotch declared Hayseed Dixie's credo: ‘The highway to Hank Williams is the same highway as the Highway To Hell'. In other words, the same spirit informs both good bluegrass and good heavy metal. Live, Hayseed Dixie make a convincing case for this.


Dixie's first recording was a collection of AC/DC songs performed in bluegrass style. Their repertoire has expanded in nine years, yet the essence is little changed. The show tonight opened with Judas Priest's Breaking The Law. Initially the juxtaposition of styles is amusing, but, as with Adrian Edmondson And The Bad Shepherds, once the novelty wears off, one appreciates more the congruity rather than the incongruity. The acoustic versions do bring out some good qualities of the songs which the rock treatment obscured. The show did credit to both bluegrass and heavy metal. Highlights included Hell's Bells, War Pigs, Ace Of Spades, Paint It Black, Walk This Way, Bad Moon Rising. Fat Bottomed Girls and Bohemian Rhapsody. Yet they were equally good performing their own songs, notably Keeping Your Poop In A Jar.


They certainly looked the part, especially mandolin player ‘Deacon' Dale Reno, whose rugged face was decorated with headband and eye make-up. Three of the quartet sported trousers or overalls shorn-off at the knees, perhaps in tribute to AC/DC's Angus Young. Acoustic bass guitar player Jake ‘Bakesnake' Byers had a beard longer than his hair.


Kick-ass music, celebrating a kick-ass lifestyle. Although non-too-serious, it could not be described as parody, seeing as their top is too high to go over, their sentiments too unabashed to be sent up. Most crucially, it's their instrumental prowess and the exciting, pleasurable sound of banjo, mandlolin, fiddle and acoustic guitars that confirms the success of their project.


With the band hailing, so they claim, from Deer Lick Holler, Appalachia, it was surprising to hear that Barley Scotch has a girlfriend and a daughter living off Mill Road, and that he drinks in the Live And Let Live. Thus it was less of a surprise when local hero guitarist Booga joined them on stage for two of the encores: not metal covers, but their own proud Cult Band and the moving country classic Will The Circle Be Unbroken. The gig ended with a thrilling final instrumental work-out.


A splendid evening of uncompromisingly robust musical entertainment.


Writer: Rychard Carrington