Whittled down to a trio, the South Austin Jug Band's sound hasn't changed as much as matured. Nearly gone is the happy bluegrass replaced by an introspective feel that was always there, just not in the quantity presented on third release Strange Invitation. For inspiration, singer/guitarist James Hyland, multi-instrumentalist Brian Beken, and Dennis Ludiker, mandolin and fiddle, moved to the Chelsea Hotel in New York City, where Arthur C. Clarke wrote 2001: A Space Odyssey and Sid and Nancy spent their last days. SAJB must have caught the bohemian vibe, as tunes developed there, "Neutral Ground" and "Wheatfield With Crows," recall the acoustic side of the Grateful Dead, easygoing and supremely melodic. They engage the stoner side of Beck by covering "Jack-Ass," stealing his lyric for the album title. There's no sluggishness, just superb musicianship, enticing songsmithing, and, still, no jug. (Saturday, March 15, Jovita's, 12:15am.)
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