Very entertaining stringband music. Locally popular on a couple of islands in north east Atlantic (probably because they are rather good).
Favorite track: Live Fast, Love Hard, Die Young.
"Old timey music has probably never been played better than it is by this tremendous band of virtuosic ‘hillbillies.’ On this new album they seamlessly mix a few of their own compositions with ‘public domain’ songs and a few by named writers, ending up with a ‘good time’ album of extreme quality that catches the fire and passion of their live sets! They were known a few years ago as ‘Special Ed and the Shortbus’ but with a few lineup changes they have settled on the Hot Seats. Great band and an excellent album as are its predecessors ." -Americana Roots UK
"At times raucous, ‘Jawbone’, ‘Ain’t A Bit Drunk’, at others faux-innocent, ‘Darlin’ Of Mine’, ‘The Ace’, but always replete with that trademark Virginia swing and coruscating instrumental backing, the question that invariably arises during a Hot Seats’ show or when listening to their recordings is, ‘How can they sing so articulately with tongues poked so firmly into cheeks?’" - Flying Shoes
Midway through their 12th year of existence, Richmond VA-based The Hot Seats are releasing their 10th album (on the first four, the band was billed as Special Ed & The Shortbus). Entitled Grandad’s Favorite, the album highlights the band’s ability to dig up and interpret traditional Appalachian fiddle tunes (including the title track, a sweet melody from West Virginia fiddler French Carpenter), honkytonk gems (Faron Young’s “Live Fast, Love Hard, Die Young”), and flex their own songwriting muscles (“Darlin’ of Mine”, “Had It, Lost It”).
Recorded live to (digital) tape at Minimum Wage Studios in Richmond VA, Grandad’s Favorite conveys both the manic energy The Hot Seats’ live shows as well as the instruments precision with which they approach the music. The album pulls from the well of classic old timey music on tracks like “Old Jawbone,” from Mississippi’s Carter Brothers & Son, and “Tater Patch” & “Old Jimmie Sutton,” both staples of the VA/NC Round Peak jam scenes, while also recognizing the works of more contemporary traditional and neo-traditional artists like Buddy Thomas (“Snakewinder”) and Tommy Thompson of the Red Clay Ramblers (“The Ace”).
Three of the tracks on Grandad’s Favorite feature guest fiddler Lars Prillaman, with whom band fiddler Graham DeZarn grew up playing tunes. These tracks and others on the album also feature double banjo (once a common feature of stringbands, combining the three-finger rolls of Ben Belcher with the downstroke of Josh Bearman). The result is a hard-charging, frenetic, big band sound more reminiscent of the Camp Creek Boys or the Skillet Lickers than of the controlled quietness that has become the trend in modern traditional music. The anchors of this sound are the sweeping chords (and bizarre solos) of guitarist Ed Brogan and the unwavering rhythm of Jake Sellers, who often sounds like multiple percussionists but is, in fact, just one man.
While The Hot Seats have moved away from the bizarre and sometimes scatological humor of their earliest releases, the wit and interest in verbal play is still evident on the album’s two original tracks. “Darlin’ of Mine” is a classic love song with a ragtime bounce; “Had It, Lost It” is a mid-tempo country song about the fleeting nature of beauty, wealth, and health. These songs are supplemented by the hilarity of the foibles of love and lust in “The Ace,” a classic from master songwriter Tommy Thompson, and the trials of being an ugly baby in “I Ain’t No Better Now” from Gid Tanner and the Skillet Lickers.
Grandad’s Favorite shows a band that is comfortable with its sound. The Hot Seats have never been content to be considered “bluegrass” or “old time”, but have worked to reintroduce the concept of stringband – a band that isn’t constrained to a particular style or musical dogma, but who can slide between genres, extracting the best aspects of each and making the best music they can with those ingredients.
released August 1, 2014
1. Old Jawbone (public domain)– from Mississppi stringband Carter Brothers & Son, first recorded in 1929 for the Okeh record label as “Old Joe Bone”. We love playing this song, especially as a set opener. The somewhat nonsensical words refer, probably, to a percussion instrument made of the jawbone of a donkey.
2. Darlin’ Of Mine (Ed Brogan) – a raggy love song from the band’s number one crooner and swooner.
3. Hog Went Through the Fence, Yoke and All (PD) – from Kentucky fiddler Luther Strong, recorded by Alan Lomax for the Library of Congress in 1937 in Hazard, KY.
4. I Ain’t No Better Now (PD) – Recorded in 1934 for the Bluebird label by Gid Tanner & The Skillet Lickers, this song is one of the stranger ones ever recorded – off meter, full of falsetto exuberance, and featuring the hilarious line “Stay at home, minding my habits, tending mules and killing rabbits, that’s my weakness now.” It fits us like a well-worn glove.
5. The Maybelle Rag (PD) – from Homer Davenport & The Young Brothers, this tune was suggested to us by our pal Kenzo Bronson, of the wild Knoxville scene.
6. Ain’t A Bit Drunk (PD) – we learned this song from John Haywood, who might very well be the world’s greatest hope for Eastern Kentucky high lonesome eeriness (not to mention painting and tattoo art), who got it from the recordings of George Roark.
7. Live Fast, Love Hard, Die Young (Joe Allison) – Eddie learned this from the singing of the great Faron Young. The sentiment fits our ethos.
8. Snakewinder (PD) – from Buddy Thomas, of central KY, this is a squirrelly and driving tune that straddles the line between old time and bluegrass. There’s only one way to play it, according to us: FAST!
9. Had it, Lost It (Josh Bearman) – a message of the hope that comes in realizing that nothing is permanent and death and failure are inevitable.
10. Grandad’s Favorite (PD) – from Ernie Carpenter, of Sutton, West Virginia. Our pal Lars taught us this tune, which might just be the sweetest thing we’ve ever recorded.
11. The Ace (Charles “Tommy” Thompson) – The Red Clay Ramblers are one of our favorites of the “modern” bands, and the songwriting of Tommy Thompson is one of the main reasons why. This song shows exactly why he is so highly regarded – a tongue twister of hilarity.
12. Bonaparte Crossing the Alps (PD) – another tune that Lars taught us. He learned it from Chance McCoy, now of Old Crow Medicine Show fame. Not exactly sure of an earlier source, though it shows up in a collection from Samuel Bayard called Hill Country Tunes: Instrumental Music of Southwestern Pennsylvania that was published in 1944.
13. Tater Patch (PD) – a festival favorite, released on Clawhammer Banjo, Volume 1, played by Charlie Lowe. We like combining Bonaparte Crossing the Alps with this one to create something we call “Boner Patch.” Yeah, we’ve come a long way.
14. Old Jimmie Sutton (PD) – another tune from all over the place. A favorite version is the one recorded by Vester Jones on the Folkways release Traditional Music of Carroll and Grayson Counties. Anytime you’ve got double fiddles and a chance to imitate sheep, you’ve got a winner in our book.