November 2006

The Speakeasy Boys
Speakeasy Records
Format: CD
Released: 2006

by Shannon Holliday

Musical Performance ****
Recording Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ****

Take eight good buddies, give them traditional jug-band instruments (banjo, fiddle, guitbox, etc.), pass around some good ol' mountain dew, and tell em' to get to pickin’. Then stand back and witness a spectacle that is both humorous and genius: The Speakeasy Boys, a band from the eastern panhandle of West Virginia.

"We're not a band, we're a party," is the motto of this group: A veritable circus is more like it. The self-titled debut album is of professional caliber, though the Boys will deny that there is anything professional about them. Don't let their modesty fool you. Songwriting comes quite naturally to many of the members. Five of them contributed nine original tunes to the 14-track album. Well-rehearsed vocal harmonies tell of moonshine, pawn shops, river living, auto mechanics, scatological humor, and general ruckus raising. A choice selection of traditional bluegrass covers peppers the remainder of the disc, and the result is a mighty fine listen. Uncommon instruments such as musical saw and washtub bass defy normalcy and direct the playing into "authentic realms." You're in West Virginia now. Welcome to the jungle. Take off your shoes.

The Boys insist they have no other motive for their association than to jam around a barrel fire and cook up some fish on a bun. They are clearly friends first and a band second -- an impressive dynamic for eight very talented and creative musicians who happen to be in high demand around the region. This CD is a rare gem, but as the Speakeasy Boys have no label and no distribution, chances are you might never hear them. Don't let this one pass you by. Do some tracking of your own (their tour schedule and CD are available on their website, and get your own party started.