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Milwaukee string quintet's
shotgun wedding of bluegrass
and punk rock

.357 String Band - Lightning From The North
3 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Mar. 12, 2010
.357 String Band

Review by Tony Bonyata

Not unlike how The Pogues fused traditional Irish music with punk rock back in the late '80s, or, more recently, how the NYC band Gogol Bordello took the unbridled passion and ethos of punk and morphed it with Eastern European Gypsy music, Milwaukee's own .357 String Band have incorporated the spirit of punk and rockabilly into their own brand of bluegrass and outlaw country music.

This five-piece string band (no drums, just banjo, mandolin, fiddle, guitars and upright bass) just released their third album aptly titled Lightning From The North - a fiery blast of mountain country music and amphetamine-fueled bluegrass that should appeal to fans of some of their modern contemporaries, such as The Hackensaw Boys, Hoots & Hellmouth and Old Crow Medicine Show. The album blasts off with the powderkeg title track and like a runaway freight train tears through the rest of the record with Americana-flavored reels, jigs, blindingly fast finger-picking and intoxicating sour-mash harmonies as witnessed on "Milwaukee, Here I Come," "Half Tank Of Gas, Full Tank Of Lies" and "Ride Again."

Even when the boys stop stoking the fire with more coal on some of the more restrained numbers, such as the tuneful "Oh Adilene" and the poignant "The Days Engrave," there's a gritty, rough-hewn honesty that manages to keep the embers of these tracks glowing bright.

With a jugful of passion-soaked songs that sound as if they were fermented in Depression-era moonshine, the .357 String Band can easily be labeled bluegrass or country, but with their raucous, in-your-face delivery, the spirit of rock & roll still somehow manages to claw its way through all the chicken-wire.

Related articles:

.357 String Band - Concert review - Milwaukee, WI - February 2009
.357 String Band - Concert review - Milwaukee, WI - January 2009

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