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Split Lip Rayfield

Never Make It Home – 2001 (Bloodshot)

Reviewed by Brian Baker

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CDs by Split Lip Rayfield

What if Hank Williams had become a part of Andy Warhol's Factory? That bizarre supposition doesn't begin to approach the reality of Split Lip Rayfield, one of Bloodshot's most original and creative bands. The Kansas quartet is hillbilly right down to its stocking feet, but filters its bluegrass affectations through the purest rock love, and it doesn't aim to screw up its fascinating formula on its third album.

SLR plays within an amazingly pure bluegrass context, but undercoats everything with the obvious trappings of classic rock. On "Record Shop," guitarist Kirk Rundstrom and mandolinist Wayne Gottstine tear up the intro with the drama of a metal ballad before settling into a syncopated lope that references bluegrass with its sonics and rock with its chord changes. Jeff Eaton still plows the bottom with a bass made from an honest to God automobile gas tank and Eric Mardis' banjo is still informed by his outside work in thrash metal bands.

Although SLR obviously twist and hammer on the foundation of bluegrass, it is its subtle method of subverting tradition while adhering to it that is its greatest accomplishment.