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Review: Hayseed Dixie – ‘Free Your Mind… And Your Grass Will Follow’

Forgers of Rockgrass, drinkers of dubious liquids in mason jars (watch out for the poop though..) and all round thoroughly nice blokes, Hayseed Dixie, are back with their latest opus, their 15th studio album. Amazing that, 17 years after coming down from the mountain with a handful of AC/DC covers done hillbilly style, Barley Scotch and company are still one of the most in-demand live acts on the circuit today. And therein lies the problem with any studio output. Hayseed Dixie gigs are a riotous affair, everyone is bladdered and ready for a good time, sing and dance then wake up in the morning only to utter the words “I did what?!”.. Hayseed Dixie could open for any band, no matter how big they are, and give them a bloody nose. To replicate that in the studio though, is tricky.

Chances are you’ll be listening to the album sober, so take it at face value. It’s a fun album, wether you’re drunk or not. Marvel at the quality of the playing and at Barley Scotch’s whiskey soaked vocals. The guitars, the fiddle, and everything else that the band picked up along the way, show that, although Hayseed Dixie are a party band, they are also serious musicians. Had it been anyone else covering ‘The Ballad of Curtis Loew’, it would be hailed as a stark, stripped back version of a Skynyrd classic, but it’s Hayseed Dixie, so it will get ignored, which is a shame, as it’s a stunning version. Barley Scotch/John Wheeler lays down a beautiful vocal performance that oozes authentic emotion. The party side of the band is, of course, straining to be unleashed, and ‘Black Or White’ (complete with it’s rap section), ‘Buffalo Soldier’, and ‘Oliver’s Army’ will get the beer thrown in the air during the current month-long UK tour. There’s also a lot of love in the room on the album, with the O’Jays’ ‘Love Train’ getting the juices flowing. Fuck, I can just imagine the carnage if ‘‘Love Train’ is played live. I’ll put a fiver on a conga line from back to front, “I did what?!…a conga?…hell no!

Some of the song choices reflect a lot of what’s topical in the world today. For instance, ‘Ball Of Confusion’ might have been a massive hit for The Temptations back in the 70’s, but listen to the lyrics, and it really could have been written today. “Segregation, determination, demonstration, integration, aggravation, humiliation, obligation to our nation..” Same with ‘What’s Going On’. It might be a smooth, soulful classic, but it’s also an incredible statement about 70’s culture. These and ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’ are on the album for a reason, to make a statement… as does the call to arms of closing track ‘Ain’t No Country Big Enough’, which has the incredible line “Now when a duck mates with a chicken then I’ll listen to your story about how the different races ain’t the same“. Under the tough “hillbilly” exterior, the boys in Hayseed Dixie  show a serious side. Party anthems mixed with protest songs, now that’s what I’m talking about!

Available now. For details on how to purchase, and a complete list of all tour dates, head over to the official Hayseed Dixie website

Review: Dave Stott

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