I distinctly remember the first time I heard a banjo and thought it was cool, in the spring of 1993. While the Butthole Surfers' "The Ballad of the Naked Man" no longer holds the same power over me as it did when I was 15, it was what led me to the Bad Livers' Horses in the Mine album, which sharply changed my musical tastes, in not my entire post-adolescent development.
Jaxon Haldane, who goes by the name Dink Jebkins when he plays banjo for Winnipeg band the D. Rangers, undoubtedly comes to bluegrass from a punk-rock perspective too. The group's self-titled debut has at least as much in common with the Ramones' Rocket to Russia as it does with the latest Alison Kraus or Del McCoury album.
There's the assumed names, of course (muck bucket player John T. Plumeray is an easy classic), but more than anything there's the unbridled energy of youth finally delivered of boredom; be it Manitoba or Queens, there's no better reason to start a band than teenage doldrums. Their manic cover of Bob Wills' "Take Me Back To Tulsa" is reminiscent of the Ramones remake of the Trashmen's "Surfin' Bird".
As creeping gentrification looms large over bluegrass, it's good to know there are still punks picking up banjos and mandolins. While they certainly have the technical prowess to pull off more traditional bluegrass, the D. Rangers are thankfully unhinged enough to really rip it up.
-Emmet Matheson, "No Depression" magazine
Check out the artist's website:
1. D. Range Special
2. Nothin' to Show
3. Take Me Back to Tulsa
4. If Just Maybe
5. Viscosity Breakdown
6. Ramblin' Man
7. Salty Dog Blues
8. D. Range Stomp
9. Weary Blues From Waiting
10. Blue Yodel #4
11. Paddy Breakdown