“Charismo” by the Hackensaw Boys

Hackensaw Boys
Free Dirt Records
3½ stars (out of 5)

By Larry Stephens

If you know what a charismo is, raise your hand. You’ll not find it in a bluegrass group. According to the band’s website, it’s a “percussive instrument invented by Justin Neuhardt (who played with the band in its early days) that has been employed nightly since the band’s maiden tour 16 years ago. The charismo is made of recycled wood and scrap — tin cans, hubcaps, and so on — and is constantly broken down and re–assembled as the parts wear out and new ones are found.” That should be enough to glean a clue what their music is like. “Don’t Bet Against Me” has a pretty melody but the music has more of an old–time sound than bluegrass — not that the band pretends to be bluegrass or old–time for that matter. Again borrowing from their website, “traditional Appalachian and Delta music lay the groundwork, but it’s injected with a heavy dose of the contemporary, good–times–roll kind of spit and vinegar the band has become known for over the years.” That should clear things up for you.

The comparison that comes to mind is the Old Crow Medicine Show. My impression, usually attuned to bluegrass, classic country and the like, is they are people who sing rather than singers. The harmony isn’t especially harmonious as you’ll hear in “The Sweet” and the songs, all written by bandmembers, are songs about life, what you might hear around the campfire of a bunch of friends just enjoying life.

They’ve been together in many configurations for 16 years, and they’re all over YouTube — listen to a couple of their songs. If you like them you’ll love this CD. If you don’t …

Hackensaw Boys