It's a credit to the Hackensaw Boys' creativity - and credibility - that their EP "A Fireproof House of Sunshine," makes as solid an impression with merely five songs as most artists do with twice as many songs. Not that the band's reputation isn't already assured; indeed, throughout their 20-year career, the Hackensaw Boys have nurtured a sound that draws from a traditional template while exuding contemporary credence. Given their rousing blend of fiddles, banjos and high harmonies, they create a musical mix that's managed to ensure them a festival following along with a reputation for engaging audiences of both hippies and homeboys.
Based in Charlottesville Va., the Hackensack Boys draw close comparisons to the likes of Old Crow Medicine Show, the Avett Brothers, the Howlin' Brothers and other bands that draw from vintage trappings to make a modern sounds. No longer simply heartland heroes, they've reshuffled their line-up and positioned founding member David Sickman at the helm. Nevertheless, the group can claim to have nurtured a number of notables in the process, among them, Pokey Lafarge, Tom Peloso of Modest Mouse and Brian Farrow of Dom Flemons band fame.
Yet, even despite the various transitions, and for that matter, the infrequency of their efforts (their last album, "Charismo," was released nearly four years ago), the band seems to get better and better with each new outing. "A Fireproof House of Sunshine" affirms that fact, and indeed, all five of its songs attest to that clear consistency. As one might expect, there's not a weak song - no surprise considering its brevity to begin with - but each offering makes such a solid impression, the combined effect is both stunning and surprising.
The upbeat energy inherent in each of these entries - "Late Night Kitchen," "Pass Unloving Eyes,""Let's Tale Us a Night Ride," "Factory Blues" and "You Act Like My Friend" - allow the EP to be heard again and again, with an enthusiasm that's still intact each and every time.
Lee Zimmerman is a freelance writer and author based in Maryville, Tennessee. He also expounds on music on his web site, Stories Beyond the Music - Americana Music Reviews, Interviews & Articles. His book - Americana Music - Voices, Visionaries and Pioneers of an Honest Sound is available from Texas A&M University Publishing.