ROCK SPORT Checks Out Hayseed Dixie

Written by on February 8, 2018

ROCK SPORT’S Michael Lennie checked out Hayseed Dixie at Celtic Connections….

Anyone who knows Hayseed Dixie as a novelty covers act would be quickly proven wrong after seeing one of their shows. They may be best known for their bluegrass interpretations of rock songs to a layman, but the band are more than capable of writing their own material and the quality of musicianship within the band is incredible and they showed it at their Celtic Connections gig.

In support was young singer-songwriter Emma McGrath, whose indie-folk style lies somewhere between Lorde and Fleetwood Mac. Her songs were well written, with honest lyrics and soulful bluesy melodies, sparsely accompanied by her guitar picking and backed only by a drummer. One to keep an eye on.

Dixie entered the stage through a thick haze to wild applause, singer John Wheeler clad in his signature dungarees, much like a number of the audience. A slight technical hitch saw the band on stage waiting to start playing for the length of Waylon Jennings’ country hit Good Ol’ Boy playing over the PA, and longer still into Johnny Paycheck’s I’m the Only Hell My Mama Ever Raised. Not one to leave his audience waiting, Wheeler sang along to the second track while the band got ready to play. The band soon burst into AC/DC’s T.N.T, fast and frantic, starting as they meant to go on. They launched through an extensive list of covers, including a menacing Don’t Fear The Reaper and a version of Eye Of The Tiger – complete with a Ghost Riders In The Sky interlude – that was just as dramatic as Survivor’s original. Fat Bottomed Girls actually suits the bluegrass style more than it suits rock.

The ABC’s giant disco ball was in action for Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get It On, which was part of a medley including Paint It Black by the Rolling Stones and a reimagining of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody. A few unlikely covers emerged, including Scissor Sisters’ I Don’t Feel Like Dancing and a latin-infused bluegrass version of Livin’ La Vida Loca, before it was back to business with a singalong Ace Of Spades. Abandoning rock covers for a moment, they gave as genuine a performance of Buck Owen’s Rolling In My Sweet Baby’s Arms as any bluegrass act could give, with banjo player Tim Carter twanging his way through the country classic and mandolinist Hippy Joe Hymas prowling the stage, the band managing to get through the set amidst his antics.

After closing the main set with a cover of Dueling Banjos, made famous in the film Deliverance, the band returned for an encore including Don’t Stop Believing and originals Business Doing Pleasure With You and Moonshiner’s Daughter. Closing the set with fan favourite Highway to Hell, they sharply veered into Freebird and Tiny Dancer before incorporating a version of The Bangles’ Eternal Flame, which became a dialogue between Wheeler and the Devil – played by bassist Jake “Bakesnake” Byers – having reached the end of the highway to Hell. They claim that Scotland is the only place they’re not seen as a cult band. It’s not clear why they’re not more popular elsewhere, but they’ll certainly be welcomed back here.

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