And the band's original songs have lots of promise; the group members realize that in a fast bluegrass number, the sheer act of virtuosically forcing words into an instrumentally conceived framework is the important thing, even if it means the listener misses a line or two. (It's been claimed that no one has ever understood all the words to Bill Monroe's "Molly and Tenbrooks.") To come up with an original train song in place of "Orange Blossom Special" and the other tried-and-true standards is a tall order, but Hot-Toe-Mitty does one, "Clickity Clack," a song that you can imagine might be picked up by other bands and played at festivals all over the place.
Every new band has its weak point, and Hot-Toe-Mitty's, from the evidence of its CD Hollow near the Spring, is vocals. The tense edge and precise harmonies of great bluegrass singing are forged, like African American vocals, in churches and in deep-rooted community events; Ralph Stanley perfected his craft in a backwoods Virginia high school auditorium. About the band's recorded version of "Wayfaring Stranger" one can say only that it is eclipsed by many others. Nonetheless, it's been some months since that CD came out and since I became entranced with Hot-Toe-Mitty's music on the streets of the Art Fair. These musicians are on the way up, and their Ark debut, free of charge at Take a Chance Tuesday on January 27, should show an entirely new talent still strengthening musically.
[Originally published in January, 2004.]
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