Local Review: Pixie And The Partygrass Boys – The Chicken Coop Vol. 1
Local Music Reviews
Pixie And The Partygrass Boys
The Chicken Coop vol. 1
Pixie And The Partygrass Boys = Thelma Houston + Charlie Daniels + Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
Cover albums can be two things: an artist’s act of love toward material that helped shape them or writer’s block between original recordings. Either way, it’s healthy to take something familiar and add a new kind of juice. Tons of musical artists do this, but they end up serving the same kind of drink—familiar songs to pull out at encores during live shows. It’s a rock ’n’ roll cliche.
On The Chicken Coop Vol. 1, Pixie And The Partygrass Boys don’t follow that cliche. It is obvious by the raw passion put into these songs that they mean more to the band than a live show novelty. The reason I can say this with confidence is who in the world would take on “Gimme Shelter” by The Rolling Stones? The Richards/Jagger masterpiece that’s just not a rock anthem, but a super massive touchstone in rock-n-roll history.
And to add to that, who in their right mind would go to the same place that Americana, soul and gospel singer Merry Clayton took us in the original song? Clayton was able to make pure beauty out of a blistering, primal-scream horror show. Katie Racine, lead vocalist of Pixie And The Partygrass Boys, went there with a bone-shaking, hair on your arms standing straight up intensity.
“War, children / it’s just a shot away / It’s just a shot away.” Racine wails. “I tell you love, sister / It’s just a kiss away / It’s just a kiss away.” She flat out obliterates this track.
One of my favorite songs of the ’70s is “Don’t Leave Me This Way,” originally done by Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes with Teddy Pendergast singing with a later rendition from the British new wave duo The Communards. But right in the middle is Thelma Houston‘s powerful disco version that’s an emotional juggernaut of vulnerability and full-force confidence. Katie Racine takes on Thelma Houston, too.
“Don’t leave me this way / I can’t stay alive, without your love,” she whimpers before exploding out: “AH BABY! / My heart is full of love and desire for you / now c’mon down and do what you gotta do / You started this fire down in my soul / Now can’t you see. It’s burning out of control!” PATPB takes on the track with the same explosiveness as napalm.
This record isn’t just all about Racine—this is a bluegrass band, after all. Amanda B. Grapes (fiddle, vocals), Ben Weiss (vocals, mandolin), Andrew Nielsen (guitars, vocals) and Zach Downes (bass) make up the rest of the group. This is a bluegrass band that take on these covers like a rock band. They are so intense that at times I forget the bluegrass because they sound electric. The band just rips through classics such as “Take On Me” (Aha), “Psycho Killer” (The Talking Heads), “Faith” (George Michael) and “Time Of The Season“ (The Zombies). As well as “We Like To Party” by the Dutch Eurodance group The Vengabus. This record is the whole kitchen sink.
The track that best sums up everything is a play on the title in Pixies’ cover of “Devil Went Down To Georgia” by Charlie Daniels. Of course, Pixie And The Partygrass Boys give us “Devil Went down to Utah, looking for a Mormon to steal.” Grapes lets her fiddle erupt and burns this classic down. “Amanda rosin up your bow and play your fiddle hard / ‘Cause Hell’s broke loose in Utah / And the devil deals the cards / And if you win you get this shiny fiddle made of gold / But, if you lose the Devil gets your soul,” sings Racine.
Spoiler alert: Amanda B. Grapes wins. “The devil bowed his head because he knew that he’d been beat / And he laid that golden fiddle on the ground at Amanda’s feet / Amanda said, Devil just come on back if you wanna try again / I done told you once you son of a bitch, I’m the best that’s ever been!” Believe it! Amanda B. Grapes saved Utah.
The Chicken Coop Vol. 1 is a Herculean power blast of fun and a masterclass in its interpretation and delivery. Every track burns; every track kills. Buy this record and let it murder you, too. I can’t wait to see these songs live, and I can’t wait for Chicken Coop Vol. 2. –Russ Holsten