By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Steve Brennan
By Joseph Hess
By Allsion Babka
By Kelsey McClure
By RFT Music
By Christian Schaeffer
By Gabriel San Roman
The Meat Purveyors whip their way through the crowded field of bluegrass and alt-country bands with so much speed, force and old-fashioned panache that nobody considers for a second there might not be any room for them. This four-person outfit, with vocals, guitar, mandolin and bass, fits tightly inside traditions -- and then bursts right out of them, again and again.
The gimmick for the Meat Purveyors is their cover songs, every single one of which is played with love. They've done Ratt, Lou Reed, Merle Haggard, ABBA, and now Johnny Paycheck, Bill Monroe and Fleetwood Mac. If the crowd laughs at the more unexpected selections, that's all right. The band is fully aware of hipster prejudices that keep people from overtly appreciating songs from more popular performers. These songs stick in the head because they are so well constructed; the fact that they can all translate to a barreling, raucous bluegrass-styled sound is further proof of their lasting quality.
It's true that the original material from the Meat Purveyors isn't yet as precisely put together as the songs they choose to pull from other sources. But it's getting better with each album, as aptly demonstrated on the band's brand-new release, Pain By Numbers, just out on Bloodshot Records. Jo Stanli Cohen and bassist Cherilyn DiMond continue to harmonize beautifully and enthusiastically, while Bill Anderson's guitar strums furiously and mandolinist Pete Stiles solos simply and neatly.
Opening the show will be St. Louis band Rough Shop, featuring former members of One Fell Swoop and a sometime member of Nadine. This band has grown by leaps and bounds with every one of its infrequent live performances this year.