When Bill Monroe died in 1996, he had never heard Split Lip Rayfield, and if he had, he probably would have caught a faster flight to bluegrass Elysium. "That ain't no part of bluegrass," Big Mon is reported to have said of another newcomer. "That ain't no part of nothin'." Split Lip Rayfield is no part of nothing -- which, in a world where nose-singing Chippendale's dancers are mistaken for country stars and jam-band doodling is mistaken for inspired improvisation, may be the very best thing to be after all.With its almost single-minded devotion to its fathers and its perpetual testing of its sons, the bluegrass community will never welcome these scruffy, tattooed tokers from Kansas, but you should. With a bottom courtesy of a truck's gas tank strung with weed-whacker line, SLR's repertoire consists of one song -- but it's a hell of a song. In triple and quadruple time, the band members throw themselves through the bluegrass changes, stomping and clawing and snarling and even harmonizing with nary a pause for breath or beer. What often sounds jokey and stoned on CD drives like a hillbilly bullet train onstage. Duct tape flies from Jeff Eaton's fingers; former Scroat Belly members Kirk Rundstrom and Eric Mardis on acoustic guitar and banjo shoot off sparks and surprisingly savvy country licks. Sure, the hippie kids are trying to twirl around their twisted boom-chick rhythms, their whacked-out kazoo solos, but SLR keep their sets quick, sharp and to the point. What is the point of bluegrass played as loudly and militantly as speed-metal? Fun -- which is more than enough reason to go.
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