Nothing gets me going like some fast pickin’, toe tappin’ bluegrass: the sounds of the banjo, the deep bass keeping everything together, and of course the southern style of shredding bluegrass guitar. Songs about mountains, rivers, and broken hearts come standard with a traditional bluegrass group, but one band stands out amongst the rest with a roaring style of “outlaw bluegrass.”
Grandpa’s Cough Medicine has changed the game. The Jacksonville, FL trio finds ways to paint a much darker scene while singing about common topics. Their new album 180 Proof stays true to their roots both lyrically and musically.
Right off the bat you are punched in the face with the upbeat, title-track “180 Proof,” song about moonshine that knocks you off you ass quicker than the beverage the namesake. A song so fast and melodious is exactly what I’m looking for when I dive in to a new bluegrass album.
A few tracks down and you find yourself listening to “Van Trip.” You know something is slightly different when the opening lyrics hit: “All my girlfriends ex-boyfriends in the back of my van, their in for some trouble because I’m a jealous man.” The song continues to tell a story of how a man takes all of his lovers ex’s down to a small shack down in the holler where he proceeds to kill all of them in different ways distinct to specific things he didn’t like about them. “Then the hipster loser that calls her everyday, when I cut out his tongue he didn’t have much to say.” Heavy.
Now for some people that would be way too much, and not what they want to hear. Call me crazy, but the darker their songs get the more it makes me smile and sing along. This band isn’t worried about mainstream appeal; they are real. They are going to be themselves and they are going to produce the music that they enjoy, no matter what.
Though my younger years of listening to heavy metal have me prone to their darker tracks, you can expect to hear some much lighter tunes on the album as well. Songs about family and hunting are also included on 180 Proof. The track “Momma Played Bass” is a catchy tune about a band featuring a Mom and Pop duo, where Momma keeps her man in line while on the road. “Momma slaps the bass, then she slaps his hand.”
What stands out the most in their music to me is that they are always telling stories. No matter how gruesome or gory those stories might get, they are stories. And that is what I feel music is all about: taking stories from your own past or telling a tall tale to teach a lesson. Grandpa’s Cough Medicine has certainly found their own brand of doing so.
180 Proof is the bands best work to date. The recording is crisp, the band sounds together, and most importantly you can hear the joy the band is having through their music. They are about to bust down the doors of bluegrass and bring a new sound into the scene, and if you don’t like it…I would get the fuck out of their way.