Split Lip Rayfield

Acts Playing South by Southwest

SXSW Records

Split Lip Rayfield

Never Make It Home (Bloodshot)

How does that guy whack that dang one-string gas-tank bass so fast without tearing his fingers off? Once again, Split Lip Rayfield busts out 14 songs of breakneck neo-bluegrass with blistering results. "Movin' to Virginia" points things in the right direction, with a mid-tempo pace (for them anyway) and a chorus ("Never can forgive ya movin' to Virginia") that sticks in your head like a hook in a catfish's mouth. Never Make It Home finds these Kansas sodbusters branching out and maturing both musically and lyrically, "Record Shop" flirting with gypsy jazz , while "PB24SS" hearkens back a bit to the pre-Split Lip days of Scroat Belly. Still, there's plenty of the full-throttle playing, runaway tempos, and lyrics fraught with violence and likkered-up desperation to suit the faithful. "Kiss of Death" improbably lightens the mood a little with its litany of automotive miseries set to a whirlwind banjo roll. On the other hand, "Mister" could be the red-headed stepchildren of the Osborne Brothers after passing the Jim Beam around a couple of times. The liner photo is a battered, ditch-ridin' Cadillac engaged in the fine Midwest pastime of demolition derby, and this disc has all the recklessness and momentum of that Caddy. It's been a few years since the Bad Livers and Killbilly broke new ground with their bluegrass revisionism, but groups like Split Lip have picked up that ball and are now running with it to beat the band. (Saturday, March 17, Waterloo Brewing Co., midnight)

***.5

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