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Hoots and Hellmouth bring the Revival to The Abbey

 

Review by Andrew Mashas
PA Music Scene.com
September 2010

Hoots and Hellmouth bring the Revival to The Abbey Bar at Appalachian Brewery Company       

i·ro·ny [ahy-ruh-nee, ahy-er-]- an outcome of events contrary to what was, or might have been expected.

The line between coincidence and irony is often walked but usually never fully understood.  Ironic situations tend to creep up on us, especially when we don’t expect them, hence being ironic in the first place.  The night Hoots and Hellmouth played a late set at the Appalachain Brewing Company was steeped with irony to the point of exhaustion, yet when all was said and done the night left me wanting more Hoots and Hellmouth.

I was originally set to interview Hoots and Hellmouth before their show on September 11th.  During a battle with some kind of established sensibility, I followed my better judgment and decided not to pursue the coveted interview with the brilliant minds of this band.  The appropriate timing did not seem to make sense.  Due to forces beyond my reach, the powers that be determined that I would not interview them.  To make matters worse I previously declined the notion to see the band Spoon at the Whitaker Center because I made this prior commitment.  By the time I did get to The Abbey bar there was still plenty of time to interview them, for the promotional staff decided to delay the show for people who were attending Spoon (1st ironic dilemma).  It had turned out that Hoots and Hellmouth were not even currently in the building because they were only a few blocks away seeing none other than Spoon (2nd and even more gut wrenching dilemma).  Needless to say, at this point I was just ready for the music.

And the music was brought to my ears from the interchanging of subtly and rapid motion.  The harmonies of Hoots and Hellmouth are the first things that jump out at you.  I’m of the conviction that harmonies are becoming a lost art form in modern music.  When you’re listening to definitive pop music from the late 60s-early 70s the harmonies bring out a whole different dynamic that just the conventional lead singer taking the helm of vocals. 

However, their harmonies would be nothing without the instrumentation to bring it all back to fold, swooning on with every foot stomp and snapped finger.  If there is one word I can use to describe the sound and aura that is Hoots and Hellmouth, it would be… revival.  One dynamic they bring is a revival of the sweet and beautiful sounds of bluegrass, yet not in the conventional sense solidified by their predecessors.  They find their comfortable niche in the every expanding genre of folk revival, which has been taking the independent music scene by storm over the last few years.  As long as it’s not trumped by pathetic bedroom electronic pet-projects, it’s here to stay.  Hoots and Hellmouth certainly bring their contribution.  With a cascading sensibility of an era once lived but seldom remembered, they make an old sound newer than imagined.  It helps that the mandolin and banjo are some of my favorite instruments. 

Lyrically they tap into different spiritual realms that cater to their choice of music.  Wailing out various verses of scripture (including one of my favorite about turning our swords into plowshares and eliminating warfare) seems to be an area of interest for the band.  And it’s not just implementing aspects of religiosity a lyric here or there in any given song.  Their attempt to bring about an entire feel for a southern gospel “revival” is quite commendable yet something I’m not quite sure this region or generation can fully appreciate. 

Hoots and Hellmouth’s stage presence basically takes the sounds on their records as a template for foundation.  However, from those songs they create a whirlwind of explosion never found on their recordings.  They are known for their live shows.  And it’s the ones who have that dynamic stage presence and captivating performances that people will always remember.  Engaging the audience is so key to any bands success.  That’s just the way fans tend to be.  And this band never lets me down.  From the songs that crescendo like “Rattle These Bones” to busting right out of the gate with “Want on Nothing,” one dare not sit idle when seeing Hoots and Hellmouth in any kind of live performance.  And as these acoustically finger picking, upright bass blasting, mandolin strumming demons showed me into the hours of the next morning, the revival has begun!

**Photos and video by Gina Tutko-Usalis