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CD REVIEW: Hot Buttered Rum - Well-Oiled Machine
By Chip Withrow - 04/08/2006 - 01:03 PM EDT

Artist: Band: Hot Buttered Rum
Album: Well-Oiled Machine
CD Review: I saw these guys a couple of weeks ago at Suwannee Springfest in north Florida. This disc exudes the same vibe as Hot Buttered Rum’s live act, and Well-Oiled Machine has been stuck in my stereo ever since.

These guys are first-rate musicians playing unique tunes. The band is a fine example of how acoustic music can really cook in the right hands. And now I can listen and recall that chilly Friday night whenever I want.

The best, most fascinating, cuts on Machine – “Idaho Pines,” “Always Be the Moon,” and “Sweet Honey Fountain” – are breathtaking. And as I’m writing this review, I’m finding more nifty surprises: Erik Yates’ Celtic flute flourishes in the jazz excursion “Waterpocket Fold,” the call-and-response picking and mournful vocals in “Butch and Peggy.”

Fans of straightforward bluegrass will dig “Fireflies,” “Poison Oak” and “Waiting for a Squall.” “Fireflies” kicks off the CD with some nimble picking, and every instrumentalist gets a solo turn. “Poison Oak” boasts a singalong chorus and some sweet harmonizing, and it stretches and gets a bit out there in the stratosphere. “Waiting for a Squall” is high-lonesome and builds in intensity.

Then there’s “Sweet Honey Mountain.” It starts as straight grass (albeit with a cool cello solo by Bryan Horne), flies into a wild flamenco jam, and lands where it began.

“Guns and Butter” is a fun jazzy number, musically similar to Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelly at the Hot Club in Paris in the 1930s. The title cut is also in this vein but more front-porch laid-back. Lyrically, “Guns” is cleverly anti-war, and “Machine” is an ode to the band’s vegetable oil-powered tour bus.

“Machine” also spotlights Horne’s bass. He takes some spunky solo turns throughout the CD.

I can’t get “Idaho Pines” out of my mind lately, and that’s okay. The catchy opening riff that pops up throughout the song, Erik Yates’ flute runs, and the vocals that dance around each other combine to make this the guys’ showcase.

“Always Be the Moon” is a close, close second as my favorite. “Moon” has a soaring chorus and bridge, sort of like Phish’s “Sample In a Jar” but prettier. Guitarist Nat Keefe shines in two solo turns, the accordion background is a fine touch, and the vocals-into-Keefe’s-solo ending could certainly go on longer.

Machine ends with “Wedding Day,” a hoedown with fellow Springfest performers Peter Rowan and Mike Marshall (also Machine’s producer) on vocals and mandola respectively. It’s a fitting conclusion, sort of like a show encore.

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