Split Lip RayfieldIf Hank Williams had lived long enough to tour with the Clash and jam with Bela Fleck, the collaboration would begin to approach Split Lip Rayfield, one of Bloodshot Records' most original and creative bands. Just consider the cast of characters in the band: Guitarist Kirk Rundstrom still works with the equally acclaimed Scroatbelly and at one point had an album's worth of material ready for a solo project; bassist Jeffrey Eaton makes his single-stringed instruments out of weedwhacker cord and a variety of automobile gas tanks, which, when played properly, provide not only bass, but percussion; and banjo player Eric Mardis divides his time between SLR and a number of other bands, including a heavy metal outfit that bears the name Snake Bite.
Influenced by a range of artists that includes the aforementioned Williams as well as Willie Nelson, Metallica, and Deep Purple, SLR brings all of these unrelated influences together in a hyperactive bluegrass context under Rundstrom's direction. On In the Mud, SLR's sophomore release, the original trio was augmented with the mandolin of Wayne Gottstine, who also added guitar and vocals, as well as another layer of tradition. SLR pins its bluegrass-edged songs to the wall with a furious sonic delivery that owes its existence to the literal punk rock of the '70s as well as the punkish country attitude that transformed music in the '50s. Call it "speedgrass," call it "hellbilly," call it "heavy flannel" -- whatever you call it, you'll generally have to shout to be heard over it. Split Lip Rayfield occasionally throws in a handful of traditional-sounding bluegrass songs, but Rundstrom and Mardis prefer to speed-pick their way through their decidedly nontraditional material, leaving purists and nonbelievers trying to figure out how to scratch their heads and plug their ears at the same time.