Devolver
The Waybacks
Fiddling Cricket Music 001
Larry Carlin / February 15, 2000

Songs: Lickkus Interruptus, Compadres In The Old Sierra Madre, Gone Wayback, Been Around, Scrapple From The Apple, The Last Steam Engine Train, I Wan'na Be Like You (The Monkey Song), McHattie's Waltz, The Witch Of Westmereland, JNPT, Cluck Old Hen

Personnel: Wayne Jacques -- fiddle, mandolin, vocals; Stevie Coyle -- rhythm, fingerstyle guitar, vocals: James Nash -- lead guitar, mandolin, vocals; Chris Kee -- string bass, electric bass, vocals; Peter Magee Tucker -- drums, vocals

"Bluegrass Rules!" so the slogan goes. And sometimes the bluegrass rules are broken. Peter Wernick certainly has stretched the boundaries of the genre on the banjo, as have Alison Brown and Bela Fleck. Druha Trava electrifies their acoustic instruments and they use drums, and David Grisman does his "dawg" music. Is any of this bluegrass? This is debatable. Do these acts get to play bluegrass festivals? Indeed they do. And so do The Waybacks, a Bay Area-based band that has created a bit of a buzz with their new CD titled Devolver.

The Waybacks are hard to pigeonhole. They play acoustic guitars, fiddles, mandolins, and string bass. Yet they also have a percussionist. If they had a banjo in the band they would probably be billed as a bluegrass band, but this album was recorded in a "banjo free zone." They play what they call "acoustic mayhem," which means they are all over the map style-wise yet the hot pickin' makes it sound sort of bluegrassy most of the time. A more appropriate, descriptive term might be "crabgrass," as some traditional bluegrass fans are going to be crabby when they don't hear any Bill Monroe songs on this recording.

There are a couple of surprises on Devolver, the first and foremost being the revelation that the band member heretofore known as "Chojo" Jacques is really named "Wayne." But anyone who has seen The Waybacks will not be surprised at how good this recording is. This version of the band has been together for less than a year, and most of the members are veterans of other notable Bay Area bands.

There is a diverse mix of material on Devolver, and the musicianship is first rate. A baker's dozen worth of songs are on the CD, including six instrumental tunes that showcase the band's pickin' prowess. The first song, Lickkus Interruptus, is a red-hot instrumental composed by fiddler/mandolinist Jacques, and it sets the tone for all of the songs that follow. Two other of the unsung songs were written by him, one is a be-bop tune by Charlie Parker, one is a beautiful arrangement of the Kenny Baker song McHattie's Waltz (featuring dual fiddles by Chojo and his "nice twin" Wayne), and the band fulfills the bluegrass requirement of one-train-song-per-recording with their version of John Fahey's The Last Steam Engine Train. Lead singer Stevie Coyle -- formerly of the popular Bay Area duo The Frontmen -- sings the bouncy cowboy song Compradres In The Old Sierra Madre (which comes from the band Riders in the Sky), the Celtic-flavored The Witch Of The Westmereland, and the humorous I Wan'na Be Like You, a rhumba from Disney's The Jungle Book. Young guitarist James Nash not only is an incredible player, he also has a fine voice, singing a song he wrote called Been Around. And Chojo/Wayne sings a funky version of the traditional song Cluck Old Hen, the song being done like you've never heard it done before.

The band is doing some CD release shows around the bay in March, and the CD is also available by going to www.waybacks.com. Check out their schedule at the site also.

The IBMA (International Banjo Musicians Association) has threatened to boycott performances by this band for contributing to the devolution of bluegrass. When it comes to breaking the unwritten rules of bluegrass, The Waybacks are guilty as charged. Yet once you hear it you will get a charge out of Devolver.

 

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