music: New Moon 

Purists may snub the Hackensaw Boys' revved-up bluegrass but the band has no plans to slow their genre-bending.

The little group of four soon swelled in number, informally adding pickers tuned into the down-home, holler-along, all-acoustic vibe that locks down the Hackensaw style. Most of the players had alternative-rock backgrounds and were looking for a fresh direction. From the onset, the band chose a loose and energetic approach to traditional musical forms, and this remains the group's musical keystone.

"This thing just kinda fell in place," Peloso explains. "It's not so much about technical prowess. It's about the energy and the enthusiasm. It felt more right than any other thing I've been involved with. It's refreshing. … there's nothing between you and the music."

After their jamming at parties and on the street, word about the new band spread quickly. Boasting a 10- to 12-member lineup and an original take on an old sound, the Hackensaw Boys began to think about tours and recording. Huddled around a living room microphone, they recorded the first CD, "Get Some," in one day on a reel-to-reel tape machine, and the group started playing bars in Harrisonburg and Richmond.

Summer 2001 found the Hackensaw Boys on their first ambitious tour, enduring 40 shows in 42 days on stages from Nashville to Chicago to San Francisco. A Southern tour followed in the fall, and the band caught a break when Cake asked it to open a show for an audience of 2,000 in Norfolk. Impressed by the Hackensaw energy, Cake asked them to open 10 more shows despite the diverse mix of brainy rock and down-home, acoustic styles on one stage.

Most recently, the band wrapped several weeks of Southern shows in support of the new 14-tune CD, "Keep It Simple." The recording showcases the rhythmic drive and original songs that are the core of the group's sound. While purists won't appreciate the revved-up Hackensaw style, those who accept growth within musical genres will catch the band's drift. The sound may be informed by American music traditions, but band members say it's wrong to simply tag them as a bluegrass band or as a group cashing in on the current renewed interest in mountain music.

"'Bluegrass' is a loose interpretation of what we are … This is genre-pushing stuff," explains mandolin player Rob "Mahlon" Bullington. "We're trying to take the energy, the envelope-pushing spirit and applying it to the [traditional] style of music. There's a weird juxtaposition going on. But we like it." S

The Hackensaw Boys play Jumpin', at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts sculpture garden, Thursday, June 27. Admission is $10. For tickets call 340-1405


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