The Washboard Union's eponymous album has an old-school vibe

The Washboard Union (Independent)

The Washboard Union calls itself an “outlaw bluegrass” outfit, and sure enough the Vancouver seven-piece breaks so many of traditional bluegrass music’s rules that it barely fits into the genre at all. The four-part vocal harmonies and plunking banjo might say O Brother, Where Art Thou?, but the overdriven electric guitar on “Sweetgrass” would probably give Ralph Stanley a heart attack.

Actually, it all fits into the catch-all category of country, so let’s just call it that. And while the guys in Washboard Union are clearly not traditionalists, all of their material has a distinctly old-school shit-kicker vibe. The disc was produced by Garth Richardson, making his first foray into country, and mixed by John Whynot, who has been down the roots road before, with albums by Kathleen Edwards and Blue Rodeo on his CV.

It’s almost all solid stuff, but the highlights are “Midnight Train”—an honest-to-God bluegrass standard—and “Hillbilly Bullshit”, which gleefully rips off “I’ve Been Everywhere” and would sound great blasting from a festival stage on a blazing summer day in the middle of nowhere.