South Austin Jug Band – No washtubs, just good bluegrass
South Austin Jug Band members don’t play washtubs or empty tubs. Instruments utilized are mandolin, upright bass, guitar and
So why such a moniker for the bluegrass, country folk and Texas roots-oriented band, which its members fondly call “acoustic mayhem”?
“Do you know the Muppets’ movie ‘Emmett Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas?'” cheerfully asked the band’s upright bass player Will Dupuy on Tuesday from Seattle, where the band had a few gigs. The South Austin Jug Band appears in Grass Valley this Saturday.
“It’s kinda funny. It’s an old Christmas movie we liked. About three years ago, I was hanging out with James Hyland (the group’s vocalist-guitarist) watching the movie in South Austin. It was a joke,” explained Dupuy about the movie in which a jug band competes as an underdog in a talent show. That was the time when the band formed.
The name stuck, however, when the band landed a weekly gig at Momo’s in the Texas music city and quickly became local favorites.
Two years ago, the South Austin Jug Band members had enough club dates to justify quitting their day jobs.
Today, they play five to six regional shows weekly for eight months and are on the road the other four months a year. The South Austin Jug Band won the new band contest at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in summer 2002, which was followed by fiddler Dennis Ludiker taking top honors at the prestigious Winfield fiddle competition.
The group also performed with one of their influences, Lyle Lovett, at the Austin Music Awards in 2002 and opened for Lovett a few months later for two nights at a large outdoor venue in Austin.
“He was pretty nice, cool, a laid-back dude. We never expected to be playing with him so soon (after forming),” Dupuy said.
In the beginning, band members didn’t think bluegrass would be their genre of choice; no one even owns a banjo, one of the predominant instruments of that genre.
“We started basically as a rock ‘n’ roll country band without a drummer,” Dupuy laughed. “We started playing faster without a drum and incorporated more bluegrass and rootsy folky music as we figured out what real music was.”
The son of Dallas opera singer Virginia Dupuy, the upright bass player grew up with music consistently in the background, if not the forefront. “There was always at my house symphony-type, classical-something-or-other playing when I woke up at 8 a.m.,” Dupuy reminisced. “I still dig classical, but this is a little different, what we do. I’m happier doing this big time.”
With three members doubling as songwriters, the South Austin Jug Band has plenty of originals.
“We stay pretty good about keeping our two-hour sets to mostly original material. Our themes deal with food (Ramen Noodles) and women. That’s all we know; it’s our stage in life,” joked Dupuy, who turns 24 next week. Band members are in their 20s.
If that’s all they know, though, it seems they’re doing OK. The group’s self-titled debut studio album, featuring Jimi Hendrix and Walter Hyatt covers, traditional numbers and originals, was picked up nationally by distributor Burnside in Portland, Ore., last week. The recording was produced by Lloyd Maines, whose credits include the multimillion-selling “Home” by The Dixie Chicks as well as albums by Robert Earl Keen and Ray Wylie Hubbard. The CD will be sold in 358 Borders Bookstores across the country.
“We’ve got nothing but great luck and great karma so far. Now you can go to any record store and order the CD if it’s not there. We’re just trying to get it in people’s hands,” added a pleased Dupuy.
Even the cold weather and overcast skies Tuesday in Seattle couldn’t dampen his spirits.
“We’re excited to be on the road, playing for new people. We can’t wait to get to Grass Valley,” Dupuy said. “We just want to bring our music to a larger audience. We don’t know what that audience is, we’re an equal opportunity jug band. I’m definitely pretty impressed with the progress we’ve made so far. So far, so good.”
KNOW & GO
WHAT: South Austin Jug Band concert
WHEN: Saturday at 8 p.m.
WHERE: Center for the Arts, 314 W. Main St., Grass Valley
ADMISSION: $10. Tickets at Yabobo, Herb Shop Records, BriarPatch, The Book Seller and at the door
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