Armchair Boogie - Hard Times & Deadlines
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Hard Times & Deadlines (Self-released, 2024)

Armchair Boogie

Reviewed by Jim Hynes

Armchair Boogie is a young roots quartet from Wisconsin that's purposely hard to pin down as they blend bluegrass acoustic instruments with electric guitars, electric bass and drums on their fourth album. Fiddle appears only on two tracks, and it's played by guests. We've heard the terms newgrass and jamgrass, but the label most applied here is funk-grass. Any of the above descriptors could apply depending on the song.

This energetic bunch is Augie Dougherty on banjo and lead vocals with Ben Majeska on acoustic and electric guitars and lead vocals backed by Eli Frieders on electric bass and Denzel Connor on drums, and two fiddlers, The Big Payback Horns appear on "Low Down Time."

Banjo driven "Hard Times" evokes John Hartford and introduces the ebullient four-part harmonies while sparks fly on Dougherty's blistering rapid runs through "Livin'." The harmony steeped "Gone in a Day" features Jeremy Garrett on fiddle to complement Dougherty's banjo whereas the half ballad/half high tempo nostalgic "Liquor Store" has Ernest Brusubardis IV as the fiddler.

The quartet flies through "All the Same," tamps it down a bit for "Skippin' Town" and sounds most bluegrass traditional on "Empty Pools" with most of the tunes ruminating on the mundane and shifting aspects of life. Simply call it the evaporation of carefree youth as these guys mature into a life filled with responsibilities.

Yet splinters of wisdom emerge in the measured "You've Been Hurt," about building trust in a relationship – "That paint upon your canvas can't show who's done you wrong/I can show you a color or two/If you're with me baby, come along."

The funky aspect of their music is most vivid in the horn slathered "Low Down Time" while the closing "Boneyard" with its upbeat music, much like the opener, disguises downcast lyrics, in this case a sarcastic view of life's finality. Yet, Armchair Boogie's unbounded energy and unabashed contagious enthusiasm prevail on anything they play or sing about.

CDs by Armchair Boogie

Hard Times & Deadlines, 2024

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