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The CD: Town and Country
Bloomington Independent
"Bowing at the Altar of Hillbilly IDOL"
by Jim Manion
Bloomington Independent
November 19, 1999

An inner backlash against alt.country posers began festering inside the music critic lobe of my brain over the last year. My roots music interests have gone through a schizophrenic split: one part loving the pure traditional sounds (I stayed to see every band twice at the Bean Blossom Bluegrass festival), the other part digging anyone who can put roots music through the sampledelic mixology process and make it work ( R. L. Burnside, Greg Garing, Beck, Snakefarm ). The middle ground seems to be thick with knee-jerk hokum and instant -twang "roots" bands who might as well have chosen ska or metal-funk for their half-baked artifice.

Fortunately, Ohio's Hillbilly IDOL, who are playing Borders and Second story on Saturday, is no such bandwagon-jumping combo looking for a genre to plunder. They are the real deal, with decades of collective experience in bluegrass and country music. Hillbilly IDOL's sound is honest and inspired and steeped in tradition, with forward thinking for maximum freshness. The band made a strong showing at last year's South by Southwest music conference in Austin, Texas; their first CD release "Town and Country" was recently picked up by Egg Records for national and international distribution after spending over three months on the Gavin Americana radio airplay chart earlier this year.

So what exactly is the sound of Hillbilly IDOL? Guitarist, singer and songwriter, Dave Huddleston sums it up well in the liner notes to "Town and Country". -"It's sort of like Ed Sullivan meets the Louisiana Hayride, or like Geraldo on Hee Haw. It's country music from the hearts and dreams of city slickers (except for Paul, who still lives on the family farm). It's a leaded gas guzzling 8-cylinder pickup converted to run on natural gas, or Mr. Haney with a pager and a cell phone... think of it, perhaps, as a moonshine martini, shaken not stirred."

Besides their natural ease with music that comes from being a well-seasoned band, having played together in the wilds of the greater Cleveland area since 1991, Hillbilly IDOL's strong suit is their vocal harmonies. When Paul Kovac, Dave Huddleston and Al moss sing together, their voices carry the essence of the brothers Louvin and Everly. The band's crisp hybrid of honky-tonk country, bluegrass and western swing underpins these vocal harmonies with a timeless American roots foundation.

Moss, Kovac and Huddleston also write the bulk of the band's songlist and do so in styles that span the history (and continent) of country music, from the bluegrass hills of East Kentucky to the smooth upbeat twang of the Buck Owens-Dwight Yoakam-Derailers Bakersfield, California sound.

Key to linking these points on the country music map is Moss's steel guitar. Whether dropping in wide atmospheric slides or jazzy accents and solos, Moss' steel playing is crucial to their sound, as is the tight pre-rock rhythm section of Bill Watson on bass and Scott flowers on drums.

Downhome musical magic prevails when Hillbilly IDOL turns the key and starts their well oiled machine rolling smoothly down the two-lane blacktop.

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