Hot Buttered Rum
Initially formed as an acoustic string band, seven years of constant touring has transformed Hot Buttered Rum into a plugged-in, percussive powerhouse that wows critics and fans alike. Their left-coast rock reveals an access to jazz, country, and world music that few groups can match. While the band’s music belies simple categorization, its songwriting and stage chemistry delights listeners at every turn. Hot Buttered Rum’s story is one of evolution. The “high altitude bluegrass” era captured on their first studio album, In These Parts, found the band enjoying success at such diverse stages as the Newport Folk Festival, Bonnaroo, Grey Fox, High Sierra, Wakarusa, and the Telluride Bluegrass Festival. Along the way, the group shared the stage with some of today’s most accomplished artists, including Phil Lesh, Bela Fleck, Ben Harper, and Nickel Creek’s Chris Thile. In 2006, acoustic pioneer Mike Marshall produced Hot Buttered Rum’s second studio album, Well-Oiled Machine, and captured the sound of a hard-touring band charting its course along the highways and byways of American music. The continued expansion of Hot Buttered Rum’s sound and writing found a home in Live in the Northeast. More electric pickups made their way to the stage, along with an increased focus on songwriting. As the band developed a heavier sound, fans and press began to describe them as a rock band with acoustic instruments. It therefore came as no surprise when, following the departure of mandolinist Zac Matthews, the other founding members Aaron Redner (fiddle and mandolin), Bryan Horne (upright bass), Nat Keefe (guitar), and Erik Yates (banjo, guitar, woodwinds, and resophonic guitar) joined forces with Everyone Orchestra conductor and drummer Matt Butler. The new lineup has recently emerged from San Francisco’s Mission Bells Studios, where they recorded Limbs Akimbo under the watchful eye of producer Tim Bluhm (The Mother Hips). Featuring guest appearances by Jackie Greene (Skinny Singers, Phil Lesh and Friends) and Zach Gill (ALO, Jack Johnson), the album marks the beginning of a new creative phase. Limbs Akimbo now signals the arrival of a highly matured, impressively listenable, stirringly rocking, and pleasantly poppy sound. Proving himself a forceful producer, Bluhm has struck an impressive balance between highlighting the multi-instrumental, cross-genre elements of the band’s sound while avoiding the contemporary trappings of music that is complex and different merely for the sake of complexity and difference. The result is beautifully paradoxical: a tremendous, minimalist pop album full of hints, teases, and cameos of the band’s complex musical personality. In “Something New,” Keefe recites the familiar wedding adage “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.” And right there, in a nutshell, is Limbs Akimbo: an album that is both an elegy and reincarnation of Hot Buttered Rum’s past sound, that borrows heavily from the rock pantheon while sprinkling in just a little of everything else. Limbs Akimbo is an album that evidences the acoustic string band of yesteryear while unapologetically propelling into the scene a mature left-coast, drum-driven, pop-rock band.