It's worth pointing out that while many bluegrass bands become more modern and forward-looking as they continue along their career paths, experimenting with Bob Dylan and Eric Clapton songs or throwing in the odd pedal steel guitar, the Dry Branch Fire Squad has, if anything, drifted back in the other direction. There are several bluegrass standards ("Late Last Night," "Bluegrass Breakdown," "John Henry") on this live album, but the program ranges widely and tends to look more backward than forward. A cowboy song rubs shoulders with the old-timey "Red Rocking Chair" (sung and played on clawhammer banjo by Suzanne Thomas); Stephen Foster's "Hard Times" is followed by a pair of traditional gospel numbers. What all of this adds up to is the fact that the Dry Branch Fire Squad isn't really a bluegrass band, and hasn't been for some years -- the group is sort of a tour-bus version of the Smithsonian Institution, lovingly displaying a rotating exhibit of traditional mountain music. What makes this album particularly special is the fact that it allows those who have never experienced one of the band's live performances to hear bandleader Ron Thomason expound at hilarious length in his exaggerated hillbilly accent about North-South culture clashes, the War on Poverty, and the finer points of knife fighting. His bad puns ("J.D. Crowe Magnon," indeed) and slyly left-of-center social commentary are at least as much fun as the music. Highly recommended, and not just to bluegrass fans.
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AllMusic Review by Rick Anderson