Words by Autumn Walden
Thundergrass band HogMaw has just released their new album, Wake, and recently held an album release show at The Fire in Philly. I first learned of HogMaw at last year’s Jammin for the Animals and the Bucks County Bluegrass Festival at Snipes Farm. They also played at last year’s Philadelphia Folk Festival.
Wake has 12 tracks, of which all lyrics are written by Matt Baldwin, lead vocalist and guitarist, and all music written by Matt Baldwin, Colin Kowalewski (vocals, mandolin, banjo, and guitar), and Ryann Lynch (vocals and violin). Johnny Calamari joins HogMaw on upright bass and vocals.
This 45-minute experience begins with a “Morning” frolic—it’s airy and uplifting even though the lyrics tell a story of escape from sorrow: “I don’t feel much like cryin’. I just know that I will soon but I don’t care…” The pace picks up with “Sweet Eyes” and continues into “More of the Good Times” both with comfy, blended vocal harmonies—the latter displays intricate violin and mandolin solos that may force your hand to the replay the track.
“No Rabbit Ears” is distinct and warms your heart with a slower tempo and subdued tone, also featuring Michael Ronstadt on cello. In fact, the band commented at their album release show at The Fire: “See? Not all of our songs are fast…” But right as you’re relaxing to the mellow groove, in comes “The Flood”, my absolute favorite song—also the opening song at The Fire. “Grab your wife and grab your kids, stay dry…” they warn as the music chases you through a dark, hazy tale of the river rising and trying to take our lives, with stellar picking and stringing. Check out the video below.
The longest track on the album is “Popcorn Empire”—a song as fun as the title. You can even imagine popcorn popping out of a stove-top popcorn-maker in time with the plucking. This is definitely a hoedown song which I recommend taking your shoes off to hop around, shake your skirt or swing your shirt, and “please, pass my beer…”
“Tears in Traffic” highlights the thick, solid sound of the upright bass while “Cheaters Heart” illustrates a crime of passion and adds a nice funky, bluegrass jam in the middle.
As the title may suggest, I recommend playing Wake in the morning—while cooking breakfast, in your shower ipod mix, for your early run or hoopjam—to give your heart and soul the jolt it needs to get through the day. And you MUST see HogMaw live. Check out their tour calendar here.