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Dry Branch Fire Squad

Live! At Last – 1996 (Rounder)

Reviewed by George Hauenstein

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CDs by Dry Branch Fire Squad

Recorded at the Iron Horse in Northampton, Mass., this is the DBFS's first live effort. Founder and bandleader Ron Thomason has kept the group going for 20 years with a mix of old timey-flavored, bluegrass music and his own unique wit.

This album will please most fans because it's loaded with all the things that DBFS is famous for. There are chestnuts from their past, "Aragon Mill," "Late Last Night" and "Red Rockin' Chair" (featuring Suzanne Thomas on vocals and clawhammer banjo), fiery pickin', "Bluegrass Breakdown" (with superb interplay between Thomason on mandolin and Bill Evans on banjo) and a cappella gospel, "Walk the Streets of Glory." But the staples of any DBFS show are Ron Thomason and his humor. The album is almost an even split of music and monologues. Whether its talking about the band's encounter with Charlton Heston, doing an impression of Bob Dylan or poking fun at his redneck/hillbilly roots, Thomason is in top form. Some find his antics annoying, in which case this isn't the DBFS album for them.

But for most, this unique mix of humor and music is what makes a Dry Branch Fire Squad show a special treat.