WAY LIVE (Fiddling Cricket) The Waybacks
This is the greatest, hardest working bunch of wacko virtuosi on any circuit. The Waybacks are tearing the fabric of bluegrass to shreds. After all, they might look like a bluegrass outfit but that shoe don't fit, and they don't wear it. (Now that I wore that clothing metaphor out, I'll try on something else.)
Front man Stevie Coyle and I started exchanging emails a couple of years back, and he is the only recovering altar boy who ever got back to me in Latin. I knew then I was dealing with a man who was not well, but their performances at Folk Alliance in San Diego clinched it. I had to catch myself twice from falling into the person behind me, I was laughing so hard. Coyle is a hilarious person and a superb singer and fingerstyle guitarist.
Flat picking guitarist James Nash is an indisputable phenomenon, right up there with Tony Rice, Bryan Sutton, and the rest. He also mixed this outrageous live recording with sonic luminary Miles Wilkinson (who recorded this and a pair of the tunes on the Devon Sproule record reviewed in this issue.) He also packs more soul and humor into every lightning fast note than any of the fleet fingered acousticats that come to mind. He'll whip out a slide and play something mindblowing, and in the blink of an eye, the fiddler will remove it from his finger and he's off and running all over the fretboard, it's really funny.
Chojo Jacques on fiddle and mandolin (right, and nose flute) not only plays like a demon, but contributes three or four instrumental tunes to Way Live. Like Coyle and Nash, he's low key high energy and deadpan all the way. Joe Kyle Jr. on bass and Chuck Hamilton on drums are indispensable to this quintet, because their outstanding groove and propulsion are what's behind the Waybacks current status as a jamband, go figure.
Irreverence? Thats the other specialty of The Waybacks. They turn two favorites from the country blues hymnal, Reverend Gary Davis' "Hesitation Blues" and Blind Arthur Blake's "Police Dog Blues," into very different beasts and take a decidedly uptempo swing at John Fahey's "Last Steam Engine Train."
It figures that San Francisco's answer to a bluegrass band would be this whacked. God Bless the Waybacks, get out and see them at your earliest opportunity. Check out the clips on the Listen page, and buy Way Live, right here. FG