HOT SEATS – FEEL
2012 – Self Released
No one should be fooled by the fact that this sometimes zany bunch of musicians don’t seem to take themselves too seriously. Whilst they are hugely entertaining they are also a band of absolutely superb musicians and have been
for a number of years despite this being only their second studio recording as the Hot Seats. There were also numerous gigs and four tremendous albums in their previous incarnation as Special Ed and the Shortbus. I well remember seeing them a few years ago at the Maverick Festival where they played a storming set followed by a couple of them giving a banjo workshop in a large packed room that included Pat McGarvey of the Southern Tenant Folk Union. If a musician of the caliber of Pat felt he could learn from them, their skills are definitely to be taken seriously.
The band has now been pruned down to a much more manageable five piece with all of them contributing vocals that are often raw and ramshackle but at others pleasant and with tremendous
harmonies usually lead by Ed Brogan. Josh Bearman plays mandolin, tenor banjo, five string banjo and sometimes bass, Ed Brogan is on guitar, Jake Sellars, percussion and bass, Graham DeZarn on fiddle and bass and finally Ben Belcher, five string banjo and of course, bass. If you want an album of mellow sounding thought provoking music this is definitely not the one for you, but if you want
music that makes it impossible to feel unhappy thanks to it’s infectious exuberance this should keep you going nicely even into the unforeseeable future! The musical genres that come to mind whilst listening to this tremendously entertaining album are old timey, hillbilly, traditional country, ragtime, jug band, string band, vaudeville and several others that seem to have slipped my mind, but I’m sure you get the picture!
Of the twelve songs on this recording half are band originals but I defy most people to differentiate between those and songs that are anything up to eighty or ninety years old, such is their mastery of this good time, predominately string band music. Despite the generally humourous feel of the album there are actually one or two incredibly sad songs that in other hands would have had a very different interpretation. Too Much Fun, one of the band originals actually tells the story of a young mother left alone with her child, unable to cope goes out on the town and the child eventually dies. Humour is probably a strange way of looking at this subject matter but somehow they pull it off. Obviously there are no down right belly laughs on this song that is as near straight country as they get and it is pretty close, with as usual incredible playing by all and driven by the banjo, good vocals and harmonies on the chorus. There are four excellent instrumentals with three of them more less fiddle led, and the fourth, the J.W. Day penned Hell & Scissors having a banjo lead and a quite sinister edge as befits a tune with that title. Album opener No Plans is an excellent precursor to what is to follow with it’s banjo introduction and vocal about a spurned lover who no longer has any plans, on a tale that as usual includes some incredible playing on a speedy ‘hillbilly’ feeling song. That is followed by Hard Working Man a song that again has a banjo intro but sounds a little like the music played over a silent movie, also having a vaudevillian feel, added to by the tongue in cheek lyrics and vocals.
Virtually all of the songs have at least a note of humour but don’t let that put you off buying this tremendous album. Without the huge amount of musical skill necessary to make it work, albums such as this are nothing more than feather light novelties. The fact that this stands up as a tremendous piece of roots music is testament to the quality of these five brilliant musicians.