Hot Buttered Rum
Hot Buttered Rum, one of the hardest-working and fastest-rising stars in the musical firmament, has become, over the last five years, a group that is infinitely greater than the sum of its parts. It began with a core of five uniquely talented musicians writing and singing songs on the mountaintops and city streets of Northern California; five musicians who, on the night they realized they loved playing together too much to ever stop, were sipping a warm buttery winter drink from which the group derived its name. Since that fateful night, the organization has steadily expanded to include a rich tapestry of fans, friends and family reaching from coast to coast. In the Fall of 2006, itching to release their first live album featuring the whole band, Hot Buttered Rum announced that it would be recording a handful of shows for official release. Live in the Northeast (released May 2007) beautifully reveals the true core of live Butter: music that is forceful without being flashy, serious without being stuffy, intricate without being inaccessible, and diverse without being distracting. Often described as a rock band playing bluegrass instruments, no prior Butter recording has so perfectly displayed the band’s bolder and heavier side. That full sound permeates Live in the Northeast — from the reggae-tinged “Return Someday” and psychedelica of “Desert Rat” through definitive covers of the Grateful Dead’s “Cumberland Blues” and Leo Sayer’s “Feel Like Dancin’” — winding the listener through a robust and intense set of acoustic rock. The widespread appeal of HBR’s music stems not only from the band’s musical versatility and prolific songwriting, but also from the magnetic chemistry the group creates onstage together. It was this chemistry that drew the group together, and that holds it together still through the rigors of their involved professional life together. It is this chemistry that audiences are consistently drawn to and caught up in, comment on effusively at shows and in online chat groups. It is this chemistry that is propelling the band to ever greater success. Hot Buttered Rum is just as comfortable plugging in at a large-scale rock festival as it is inviting the audience to enjoy its quieter repertoire at an acoustic folk session. Perhaps this is why the band has enjoyed success at such diverse festivals as the Newport Folk Festival, Bonnaroo, Grey Fox, High Sierra and the Telluride Bluegrass Festival. HBR has managed to do all of this without the use of drums, opting instead to channel their music through the guitars, mandolins, fiddles, banjos and string basses of traditional bluegrass. These, along with their occasional flutes, accordions, and other sundry instruments, are amplified with both electric pickups and microphones, giving them the volume and punch to carry through even the largest sound systems. The band has shared the stage with some of today’s most accomplished artists, such as Phil Lesh, Bela Fleck, Ben Harper, Chris Thile, Mike Marshall and Peter Rowan, the last two of whom worked with the band on its recent critically-acclaimed studio release, Well-Oiled Machine. The support and encouragement the band receives from these and other musical elders is important, since HBR has such a great love and respect for American musical traditions, as well as those from Africa and Europe. Blues, folk, bluegrass, jazz, and rock permeate the group’s performances, while the members’ varying degrees of classical training lead them to invest heavily in group composition. One of the things the band enjoys most is its ability to turn on a dime and leave its audience wondering what new realms their songs will explore, while at the same time assuring them that, above all, the music’s purpose is not to impress but to entertain and to inspire. HBR is committed to achieving its musical goals in an environmentally sensitive manner. Since 2003, the band has toured in vehicles that run on vegetable oil and biodiesel instead of fossil fuel products. Doing this has not been easy, especially in the early days. But, being in a business that requires driving thousands of miles each year, HBR knows that using alternative fuel is one of the most effective ways it can reduce its ecological footprint. The band enjoys performing for educational assemblies and benefit concerts, and many of their songs seek to raise awareness about the socially and environmentally volatile era in which we live. Above all, HBR’s goal is to satisfy their audience’s minds, hearts and dancing feet with a unique and uplifting blend of progressive American music.