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The Hot Seats - Stupid Mountain Too Big (Self Release)

Star rating: 
4

The Hot Seats, for the purposes of this, their first album in three years, are a five piece band from Richmond Virginia, with fiddle, guitars, banjos, bass and attitude. There are tracks like Ida Red and When You Were Young that are hot as their seats with frenetic playing and passionate vocals, then there is the more chilled 'hots' like Briney Foam, same twisted gnarly music but at a New Orleans Funeral Band tempo. Briney Foam has some delightfully sweet harmonies and Rudys Bzdyk's fine trumpet. The crazy 'Robert Crumbesque' cover might suggest that the band have overdone the homegrown or chugged too hard on the bootleg liquor, but beneath the chaotic miasma around The Hot Seats is some sharp musicianship, listen to the dexterous picking on Life Story or the chiming instruments and tricky timing on Bad Decisions.

Like The Handsome Family, The Hot Seats subvert the County or Bluegrass form, slipping some thought provoking lyrics in among the sweet playing. Some are just deliberately ripe Country double entendres like the lyrically rich, but 'won't get played on the radio' Hammer Time. Some like Bad Decisions are wry comments on life, some like Briney Foam touch on notions of self, while Compliance and Gun Crazy (In The USA) offer a damming assessment of the US and UK today, that seems strangely lacking elsewhere. Twined around earworm tunes are some dark questioning lyrics. "Your silence is compliance, your compliance is required" is as sharp and satirical as Gil Scott Heron at his driest. Gun Crazy is a punkgrass protest that manages to avoid politics and just poke fun at the problem. Elvis or Jerry Lee is definitely in the building for the ending too. Put STUPID MOUNTAIN TOO BIG on as background and it’s sweet acoustic bluegrass bending into jazz with some rich harmonies. Stop and listen and there are sharp barbs and jagged reefs below the calm surface of the fast flowing river that is The Hot Seats. Here's hoping the track by track notes from the press release sheet are on the album or in the CD booklet as they are a scream. God what Century am I living in, just looked online, short run CD 250 copies available on Bandcamp. I'm off to mourn the death of physical music and you need to rush out and get a copy of this album. 

Marc Higgins
Northern Sky