Equally at home with traditional Appalachian country and gospel and delivered with wry punk attitude, The Black Twig Pickers have picked up where Bad Livers left off, providing music that is reverent to the past but full of modern grit. Their new 12”, “Whompyjawed,” offers two tracks that reflect that winning mix of reverence and killer chops.
Fiddles and banjos rule here, and though there are only two songs, both are over eleven minutes long. We haven’t heard from the trio of Isak Howell, Nathan Bowles and Mike Gangloff since their two 2010 great releases of mostly traditional tunes (though there are a few originals on “Ironto Special”). They haven’t so much improved on their playing since then as deepened it. While on the surface “Merry Mountain Hoedown” is a tune apt for square dancing, its length allows for subtle interplay and hypnotic depth. Guest fiddler Sally Morgan works with and off of Gangloff’s fiddle to mesmerizing effect.
Likewise, there is a gritty, haunting drone underneath the speedy, traditional melody of “Brushy Fork of John’s Creek.” The banjo work is particularly hot here, and that helps the tune transcend the genre and nudge into the mystic. That isn’t so rare, as the best music, country or otherwise, reaches deeper than you think it might at first listen.
Released in vinyl edition of 600 plus a free download coupon, “Whompyjawed” packs a lot of passion and soul into twenty five minutes. The Black Twig Pickers’ traditional sound is enough to ensure them a long life; what they add to their mastery of country and folk makes them truly a treasure to keep following.