Bonepony

Fun House

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AllMusic Review by

The unique sound of Bonepony has often been referred to as "heavy metal-bluegrass," but perhaps "mutant folk" might be a more apt description. The band makes a lot of noise for three players, mixing rustic instrumentation and roots music with a hard rock sound and punk rock attitude. They've often been (unfairly) relegated to the "jam band" ghetto with Phish, String Cheese Incident, and similar bands, but the truth is that Bonepony has more in common with the legacy of the Grateful Dead than those aforementioned artists. There is a shared love of American music styles, from Appalachian folk and old-time country to blues and bluegrass, for one thing. There is also Bonepony's tendency to experiment musically, taking these traditional musical forms out to the end of the creative gangplank to see what can be accomplished without falling into the waters below. Bonepony's third album, Fun House, was recorded live at a number of venues, but it represents more than a mere compilation of the band's best-known songs. Sure, Fun House revisits tracks like the crowd-pleasing "Bleecker Street," "Feast of Life," and "Blue Blue Blue" from the band's debut, Stomp Revival. It also includes "Salvation Song" and "East Texas Rhythm" from the acclaimed Traveler's Companion album. Better than half the material on Fun House is new and previously unreleased, however, captured in a live setting that the band obviously thrives in. With the addition of guitarist Nicolas Nguyen of Nashville's Social Kings, Bonepony has found a musical talent to match multi-instrumentalist Tramp's fiery riffing and complement Scott Johnson's intelligent songwriting, heavily influenced by Southern literature and rural imagery. Among the new songs are several that stand out: "Bayou Sky" is a lively rave-up complete with Tramp's weeping fiddle and Nguyen's tasteful guitar leads. "Old Song" is an amped-up bluegrass-based track with hyper six-string work and some good old-fashioned chicken pickin', while "Everybody Sing" is an energetic audience participation song with chanted chorus. "What's Inside" offers a little Dixie-fried funk similar to Widespread Panic, and "Sugar on the Pill" features some manic string work, Johnson's growling, almost scatting vocals and odd, syncopated percussion. Altogether, Fun House is throwback to the days when friends and family would get together on the porch and play together, shouting and stomping and raising a joyful noise. It is this spirit and their obvious glee in performing that separates Bonepony from their contemporaries. A solid collection that breaks new ground even as it pays homage to the past, Fun House seals Bonepony's reputation as one of rock's more eclectic and exciting bands.

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