2008 Artist Lineup

South Austin Jug Band

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From south of Austin’s Colorado River, from hometowns littered across Texas and the United States, from a mesh of influences running through blues and country and newgrass comes the South Austin Jug Band, one the most fierce set of strings working together today. Both innovative in their combining of genres and true to the traditions of their musical roots, the South Austin Jug Band has solidified itself as a tour-de-force in the world of acoustic music. Pop in the band’s self-titled debut album or catch the boys rip-roaring on stage and the unmistakable cheer they bring to their music are clear. Dark and Weary World, their follow-up release on Houston’s prestigious roots music label Blue Corn Music, retains that same cheer but is bolstered with improved musicianship, focused songwriting, and a pristine recording that shows their determination to keep improving and reaching out to more audiences. “It may sound obvious,” commented singer/guitarist James Hyland, “But it’s just more fun to play well-written songs.” Since finalizing their current lineup in late 2004, the South Austin Jug Band (SAJB) has continued to astound audiences around the world and record their sophomore album, “Dark and Weary World.” Reflecting on an enthralling year, Hyland said, “This is the best ensemble we’ve had, and we just want to run with this as long as we can.” Hyland fronts SAJB with his smoothly twanged tenor, and is joined by Will Dupuy on bass, Willie Pipkin on lead guitar, Dennis Ludiker on mandolin and fiddle and Brian Beken on fiddle in a style that is described by Tony Peyeser in the Santa Monica Mirror as “old-timey roots but deliver the musical goods in a contemporary, loosey-goosey style.” SAJB began in the Fall of 2000 when singer/guitarist James Hyland pulled together a few pickers for a once-off gig at Austin’s legendary Broken Spoke, but the piece-meal band had such a blast that they continued to jam out their favorite country tunes and bluegrass breakdowns on weekends. Within a year the boys decided to share their music with the rest of Texas. Since such humble beginnings, SAJB has grown exponentially over the subsequent four years, garnering a fan-base that touches an enthusiastic fanbase in the Midwest and West Coast and Northwest where they recently toured opening and backing up singer songwriter extraordinaire Todd Snider. While being based in the Live Music Capitol of the World SAJB’s new fans reach all the way to Europe (following a successful summer 2005 tour) and they were crowned Best New Band at the 2003 Telluride Bluegrass Festival and Best Bluegrass Band at the 2005 Austin Music Awards and hailed as a “rarity—popular with the ‘Texas Uprising’ curved ball cap crowd, as well as the jam band groovers,” by Michael Corcoran in the Austin American Statesman. The band has kept up a prodigious touring schedule all the while, playing nearly 200 shows a year. But for SAJB, the demanding schedule and long rides are well worth the results that have followed. “We’ve done a lot of our growing on stage,” Hyland explained. “Dark and Weary World” epitomizes the maturity that SAJB has gained on the road. Each recording, each song, each voice and solo and note is imbrued with a committed passion that courses through the entire album. The ballads are bent on breaking our hearts, the instrumentals crackle with spitfiresolos, and their newgrass numbers are stacked with vibrant, vigorous lines. And while the pace and focus may vary from song to song, each band-member’s devotion to the album makes “Dark and Weary World” a tree with varying branches but one clear, resonating root. “We nurtured it along, we were all together the whole way through,” reminisced bassist Will Dupuy. SAJB admittedly comes from different musical backgrounds: Will Dupuy’s mother is a Grammy-nominated classical singer who performs regularly in the Dallas Opera, while fiddler Brian Beken was crowned Texas’ 2004 Flatpicking champion. James Hyland crooned up in North Carolina before heading south to study at the University of Texas. Dennis Ludiker was born into a family of Washington state fiddlers and was awarded first place at the prestigious Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield back in 2002, and guitarist Willie Pipkin’s namesake was from the iconic Willie Nelson. The band’s music was in their blood before they even knew it. These various upbringings led to varied tastes: lead guitarist Willie Pipkin is a blues-man through and through; Hyland and Dupuy are more influenced by Steve Earle and Townes Van Zandt; Dennis Ludiker and Brian Beken are drawn to jazz and newgrass and anything else that’ll fuel their improvisatory fires. But both on stage and on “Dark and Weary World,” the group’s commitment to each other’s interests and creating music together has led to a coherent and cohesive sound—each song brought into rehearsal is workshopped by the group with hooks, changes, and solos added until the piece is in part written by each member. Together they’ve created a sound that’s been described by San Francisco’s East Bay Express as “a joyful noise that seems made of pure sunlight and moonshine.” Though the band members themselves are young, the South Austin Jug Band’s quick maturation in sound and dedication is startling, and considering how far they’ve come it’s exciting to think how much further they can go. “No one ever gets bored with anything, on stage or in the audience,” says Hyland. “And we can’t ask for much more than that.”

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