Hayseed Dixie
By Ronnie

It might qualify as the most mysterious musical saga since the Soggy Bottom Boys recorded "A Man Of Constant Sorrow" and then disappeared while their song caught fire at radio: A group of heretofore-unknown Appalachian music enthusiasts have recorded a hillbilly tribute to AC/DC under the band name Hayseed Dixie. Hayseed Dixie’s debut album, titled "A Hillbilly Tribute to AC/DC", will be released on April 17 on DTR, a division of the Dualtone Music Group.

The tale of how this recording came to be goes like this: An out-of-town motorist crashed his muscle car into a stately oak in "the Holler". As the locals scavenged the wrecked vehicle, they found under the back seat of his car a passel of vinyl albums by a band they’d never heard of called AC/DC. Soon after listening to the albums on a Victrola at 78 RPM, one of the locals was heard to exclaim, "This is some mighty fine country music!" and the boys set upon learning the songs of AC/DC armed with their traditional instruments of choice: guitar, mandolin, banjo and fiddle. The quartet, now known as Hayseed Dixie, drove to Nashville and performed these songs before a Music Row executive. He signed them to a genuine recording contract and made this recording "using a bunch of really expensive German microphones, eight tracks of American analog tape and no EQ whatsoever." What came down is what you hear. And what you hear are AC/DC songs like "Highway To Hell", "You Shook Me All Night Long", "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap", "Hell’s Bells", "Money Talks", "Let’s Get It Up", "Back In Black","Big Balls" and others sounding uncharacteristically clean as country water.

AC/DC, of course, was one of the most influential hard rock bands from the ‘70s to the present, the Australian band’s music marked by thundering guitar chords and Brian Johnson’s larynx-shredding vocals. Their songs have been brought back to the American outback where Hayseed Dixie dares to re-imagine them. AC/DC lead singer Brian Johnson called the Hayseed Dixie record "hilarious" in "The Australian", the national newspaper of Down Under. According to Hayseed Dixie member Barley Scotch, "We hope big-time superstardom doesn’t spoil us and that we maintain our self-defecating sense of humor".

I talked to band members, Barley Scotch and Einus Younger about the band. I also talked to Hayseed Dixie mastermind, John Wheeler.

The Barley Scotch & Einus Younger interview

E.C.: Why did you decide to leave what I imagine is the peaceful life in Deer Lick Holler for the rock 'n roll touring lifestyle?

Barley Scotch: Well sir, we had to testify. It says in the good book you gotta go forth and bear witness. That's what we aim to do. We aim to bear witness that the fact that lost highway of Hank Williams and that highway to hell that that boy's singing about on that record we found - they're the same road, brother.

You take that "Highway to Hell" now for example now. That song is a beacon lighthouse standing clear on the shore. I'm tellin' you, you might be roaring down that fast track of sin with your buddies thinking yore gonna have a good time. But, there ain't gonna be no liquor store in hell. Now if you don't get off that train before its destination, that song will tell you where you might be bound.

E.C.: Have you heard any other rock 'n roll bands? You know, there is another cool band called the Beatles, spelled with a BEA.

Barley Scotch: Beetles? O.K., not like the bug? Alrighty...no we hadn't heard them yet I reckon'. One feller one day was trying to me we outta do versions of a band called, Abba. He played me a couple of songs and I told him, "look, I ain't the saviour here, but if it aint a good song, I don't reckon we could help it none."

[To Einus] Remember I was playin you that "Dancing Queen" song? And I said, "yeah, we had a couple fellas up in Deer Lick like that once."

Einus Younger: We run them plum outta there.

Barley Scotch: I reckon a man can do whatever he wants to do behind closed doors. I mean, I aint gonna judge nobody, lest I be judged, you understand? But that don't mean a man's gotta parade it around? I've never understood that...if a man wants a man, I can understand that. But, why would he want a man dressed up like a woman? If that's what he wants, why don't he just get himself a woman?

Einus Younger: Why would he want a man when he's got a beautiful mule or a sheep? A sheep aint gonna talk back, either. They're damn good to eat.

Barley Scotch: That's right, when you're done with em, you can eat the son of a bitch, heh heh heh.

E.C.: Were there any other records in the car wreck? Or just AC/DC?

Barley Scotch: No, it was just AC/DC and a buncha books by this feller named, Freederick Neechee. One called, "the Will to Power" and I've been studying that one alot. That feller's got some interesting ideas.

E.C.: Will Hayseed Dixie now develope that 'rock star' image and demand certain things backstage? Like Van Halen and the infamous brown M&M's?

Barley Scotch: Ohh no sir, now we aint gonna get above our raisin'.

Einus Younger: Well some pork rinds...

Barley Scotch: No, if I start acting bigger than my upbringin' my mamma, she'd come down and slap my teeth outta my mouth. I man's gotta be humble. Pride comes before the fall.

Einus Younger: Amen!

The John Wheeler interview

E.C.: Who came up with the whole idea of Hayseed Dixie? I know you guys have all done session work.

John: Alright, here's the long form answer. I think that everybody that's my age - I'm 31 - when they were a kid, probably learned how to play guitar by listening to AC/DC records. I think that everybody my age that plays at all grew up playing those songs. To me it doesn't get anymore roots rock than AC/DC. To me they're the quintissential three chords and the truth kinda band. I paid my way through college playing at fraternity parties and stuff. Once in awhile I'd always throw out a bluegrass version of an AC/DC song and the crowd always went bananas over it. I got older and I started playing alot of different styles of music, bluegrass and stuff. I've made living for about the past 8 years running a studio in Nashville. Doing a little road work, but mainly doing studio stuff. And recording about everything that isn't 'mainstream'. I've kinda carved out a niche in Nashville as the guy who does roots rock and bluegrass, alternative country. It started to occur to me that there is a whole lot in common with roots rock 'n roll and old school country and bluegrass. Its coming in alot of ways from the same place. With very unpretentious lyrics, singing about the experience of working class and blue collar people in America. And dancing on your pain, essentially.

One afternoon I had a little spare time, we were cutting some other session. I was sitting on the porch with an acoustic guitar and started playing "Highway to Hell" in a sort of bluegrass style. And a couple of the other guys in the group, and everybody just went, "man that's killer." And I said, "I've been thinking about making a record of that for years. And they were all like, "we'll do it", so we just kinda did. We made the whole record in two days. Nobody ever thought it would be released or anything. I thought it would be something like that Linda McCartney board tape that would make the rounds on the underground scene. People would get a kick outta it, and that would be it. Our motivation for making it was purely just to have some fun. It amazed me how well the tunes translated.

E.C.: Being an AC/DC fan, I found your record HILARIOUS! Tastfully and cleverly done. I even learned some of the lyrics that I couldn't understand on the original AC/DC records….

John: We had a hard time with that, we had to go to their official web site and get the lyrics. The Bon Scott ones I could understand pretty easily, but the Brian Johnston ones I had a hard time with.

E.C.: Are you subconsciously trying to expose the sometimes narrow minded rock fans to bluegrass?

John: Well, like I said, honestly we had NO aggenda when we made this record. We were just doing it cause we like it and liked the idea. Thought it would make a fun record. If alot of bluegrass fans get turned onto some rock through it, or if rock fans get turned onto bluegrass, then I think all the better. But, I would think it would be great if alot of old school rock people would check out, say the Stanley Brothers or something, and realize that the subject matter is by and large the same. Maybe from a slightly more of a rural point of view. But not anymore of a rural point of view than Ronnie Van Zant.

E.C.: What would you call the music? Bluegrass parody?

John: I don't think we're trying to parody anything. I mean there's some humorous moments on the record. But then again, I don't get the feeling that Angus Young is taking himself too seriously. I mean, were talking about a guy whose almost 50 running around in tight shorts on stage.

E.C.: You covered almost ALL of the major 'hits' of AC/DC on your record. I was just curious, how do you follow it up with all the 'well known' songs on your first album?

John: Were not...you only make this kinda record once.

E.C.: Will you every parody other bands? I think it would be hilarious to have a series!

John: The record label already said, "why don't you do a Led Zeppelin". You know, I'm gonna have to leave that to somebody else to do. I think the whole way that this record came about was totally an accident. Nobody had any expectations, we just did it for love. There aren't really any rock 'n roll bands of the degree or calibre of AC/DC that I'm that big of a fan of. Maybe early Van Halen...yeah, we could make a record of Kiss songs. But, none of us are really huge Kiss fans. It would be a bit forced. And I don't want to force something just to do it.

E.C.: What kind of reaction do you get when you play? Any angry ones?

John: Honestly, no and that surprises the hell out of me. I expected that there'd be a lot of hardcore AC/DC fans who might think we were trying to make fun of them.

E.C.: I know Bruce Johnston of AC/DC has commented on your band, but have any of the other members? I think it would be hilarious for you two to tour together!

John: Actually we are gonna be playing Cliff Williams - the bass player of AC/DC - housewarming party! I can't tell you where they're doing it, cause I wanna respect their privacy. But they just built them a new house and they tracked us down. His wife called me and said "we would really would love to have you guys come play at this thing." I said, "Only if you will get up and jam with us." She said, "I'll get 'em to do it, I know Brian's gonna be there." I told her it was the biggest flattery that we had gotten from anybody that the band was fans of our record.

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