All Jugging Aside ...

South Austin Jug Band (Jug Band Records)
South Austin Jug Band

By Kory Wilcoxson

You won't find a jug in the South Austin Jug Band. Or a washboard. Or a slide whistle. But if you can get past those initial disappointments, what you will find is a five-piece band dedicated to making bluegrass music that is as diverse as it is exceptional.

Their debut album is truly a gem that demonstrates the band's skills as songwriters and musicians. The album combines traditional songs ("Long Journey Home"), covers (a beautiful treatment of Jimi Hendrix's "Little Wing") and originals (the soft country feel of "My Baby in the Sunshine"). They even show off some humor on the Joe Ely-meets-"A Mighty Wind" stylings of "The Ballad of Eddie Mullet."

Far and away, the highlights of the disc are the instrumentals (especially "Ramen Noodle Rag"), where the band really shows off its chops. Willie Pipkin and Matt Slusher are phenomenal on lead guitar and mandolin, respectively, and Dennis Ludiker plays the fiddle with such frenetic intensity it's a wonder he doesn't saw it in half. The energy created by the band on this debut album is infectious, and you'll be reluctant to stop listening.