The South Austin Jug Band won the new band contest at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in the summer of 2002. But, as they like to point out, they don’t really play bluegrass. And they’re not a jug band, either.
They are, however, currently one of the hottest bands in Austin (north or south). This self titled, self-released CD, their first studio effort, is good, if slightly disappointing. Producer Lloyd Maines captures the fine musicianship of the young quintet, shining a light on their interplay and their ability to stretch things out.
The band adapts a wide range of music to their all-acoustic alignment (two guitars, fiddle, standup bass and mandolin). They cover Bob Wills, a couple of traditional tunes, Walter Hyatt and, of course, Jimi Hendrix, mixing them up to their own specifications.
Less impressive is their songwriting, which tends to lag behind their chops. Still, original instrumental jams such as “Old Settler’s Breakdown” and “Ramen Noodle Rag” show it’s mainly the lyrics that need some work. This debut only partially captures what the South Austin Jug Band can do; for now, they’re best caught live and in person.