Album Review:

Brokedown Hustlers, There Goes the Neighborhood

Written by Miriam Yavener

The Brokedown Hustlers‘ music evokes feelings which resonate deep in the souls of those who love the open road.  Box wine and box cars, camp fires and card games, misfits and moonshiners, wild women and wanderers; these are the elements and archetypes presented in the tales on “There goes the Neighborhood.”  The musical chemistry the band possesses is palpable on their latest recording.  A unique blend of new grass and bluegrass can be heard, which is laden with unexpectedly raw lyricism.

The album begins with “Brokedown Ballad Breakdown.”  The song is a perfect introduction to the band, whose energy is nearly summed up in the chorus.  “Conceived in a tree, born in a camp fire.  Mama was kin to Bonnie Parker, Papa was a live wire.  Baptized in sin, sinners got no choir.  Just us Brokedown Hustlers singing cuss words round the camp fire.”

Clever writing is the hallmark of the musical experience encapsulated on There goes the Neighborhood.  The second track “Whiskey Song” is a brilliant example of poetic skills.  The song is a story told through the eyes of band vocalist and lyricists August West.  It is the keenly crafted tale of a debaucherous writer actively engaged in the adventures about which he sings, including the call for a working pen so he might transmit his life to lyric.  This album has not one song to disappoint the listener seeking creative lyrics.  Another particular example which stands out is “Banjo Song.”  It is the advice of August West’s dying father, and a happy tribute.   “Headier then Thou” is a song which deals with the issues of self righteousness and elitism in the Grateful Dead and jam band community.

Another noteworthy trait of the Brokedown Hustlers’ is the listenable composition of their songs.  A huge percentage of the tunes on this album are begun with captivating intros, such as on “Fruit Flies.” and “Ooh Wee.”.  Back up vocals are placed with impressive aptitude adding to the musical arrangement, and often humorous tone of the songs. Guitarist Tennessee Jed provides percussive rhythm,as well as harmonica on several tracks.  The mandolin workings of Jack Straw (from Omaha), as well as the adept guitar and banjo leads of Barely Garcia trill over the steady foundation laid down by stand up bass player Philthy Lush.  The depth of the connection among these players is discernible.  The album also has several seamless inclusions of musical guests including Dr. Fiddle, Austin Litz, Mateo Munk, Robbie Mann, and Brian Nalls.

The album ends with a song for the potentially unsatisfied listener called “Critics Delight.”  It pretty well sums up the raw feel and “don’t give a fuck” attitude of the band.  It’s hard to see what there would be to criticize about this album.  The unbridled story telling is sure to delight the type of listener who is drawn to the jam band scene, as well as spark a light in any mischievous soul.  The entire album is available for free download on the band’s website, where one can also purchase a hard copy.