Press - posted on February 18, 2015 by


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.

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Press - posted on February 9, 2015 by

A GUIDE TO GRANDPA’S COUGH MEDICINE A primer on the latest release from the brilliant, violent, virile, drunk, One-Spark-winning bluegrass kings

Written by Arvid Smith
“To me, the most ‘outlaw’ thing anyone can do is to not give a shit. I personally don’t care what anyone thinks of me, the way I write or how I go about things. Sometimes I feel my goal in life is to just be left alone, on my own land, free to shoot my guns in peace.” These words from Grandpa’s Cough Medicine frontman Brett Bass carry a roadside translation that speaks more to the way he and the band do business than the seemingly backwoods Zen it implies. To their fanatical local fan base, half the band’s appeal lies in the subject matter of their songs — from the risqué to the ribald to the outspoken outrageous and back again. That would be enough for any lesser group to get on with, but there is no denying the instrumental brilliance of their delivery of the message.

If sheer virtuosity is the idolatry of the bluegrass ethic, then GCM are The Olympus Mountain Boys: glove-tight and breakneck excursions from Bass’ flat-picked lines and Mike Coker’s intricate banjo rolls and solos at full-on speed (which belie a stage presence akin to a potted plant) all held together by wayward ex-opera singer Jon Murphy on the upright bass.

Yet again, it is silver bullet time for the band on the eve of the release of their third CD, 180 Proof, a fresh shot of their wares into the music business, as it were. Recorded in a scant week’s time at a Nashville studio, the disc is the outcome of the band’s musical domination of 2014’s One Spark Festival. Ever the do-it-your-selfers, GCM used their winnings to partially fund the release.

“Hell, we’re still out of pocket to get it done,” says Bass. Produced by session veteran Randy Kohrs and featuring alt-country Americana luminaries Hank Williams III, Jason Carter and Aaron Till, 180 Proof is 15 polished gems of traditional bluegrass catapulted into the morass of today’s jaded values and primitive gratification.

Is this music written for the “everyman,” the humble shoes in which songwriters invariably place themselves?

“Why the hell would I write like that?” Bass responds. “I couldn’t write a song about getting up, going to work, coming home to watch TV. That’d bore the shit out of anyone. It’s the darker side that’s always interested me.”

Rather than elaborate on Bass’ statement, I’ve chosen to acquaint the reader with the darker-side aspects of 180 Proof in outline form, as per song subject matter. Topics covered:

I. Alcohol Intoxication

a. As a metaphor for a lifestyle, see the title track (vocal contribution from Hank III)

b. As a bracing enhancement to overcome various obstacles: “Liquid Courage” (sung by Murphy, intoned in a stilted, weird blend of snake-oil barker and college professor)

c. As in detrimental to good health: “Respect The Shine” (“should have stuck to beer and wine,” rhymes the refrain)

II. Violence

a. As a tool to nurse a broken heart: “Van Trip” (in which the jealous protagonist kidnaps and does away with his current squeeze’s exes one by one in selective degrees of gore)

b. As retribution and social justice: “Blood & Justice” (you are a deviant criminal and I know where you live. If you won’t kill yourself I’ll do it for you — point blank)

c. As Jack Ruby-style patriotism: “Westboro Waltz” (eye for an eye is still murder) with a suitably po’-faced fiddle break from Jason Carter

III. Virility

a. Its place in the male aging process: “Brand New 22” (not the caliber, mind you) — “a man is only as old as the woman that he feels.” The record’s lyrics abound with double entendre

b. Deferred gratification as directly proportional to the size of the codpiece: “Denim Prison,” a new riot in cellblock No. 9 (inches, that is)

IV. Environmental Sensitivity

a. Endangered species: “Every Critter in the County” (hunted to extinction? … hangs up the rifle, takes up fishin’)

V. The Promise of The Revolution Unfulfilled

a. As clueless hippie contentment: La La Lolly — pill-popping monosyllabic “hippie girl,” real or imagined, doesn’t really matter.

On the surface, it may seem a collection of novelty tunes taken to the extreme every time, with the sole intent to outrage. Not so; it’s said show business types embraced Lenny Bruce until they realized he was serious. The same applies to Grandpa’s Cough Medicine. To the point of attempts at censorship from festival promoters of their song content — ironically, in the face of loving audience response.

In a strange way, a solid thread of the band’s libertarian integrity runs through every lyric. “I look around everywhere and see people divided into camps — left-wingers here opposing all the things they’ve been taught to oppose, same with the right-wingers over there. There are good sides to both, but they prefer to be stuck to one another with no meeting ground,” says Bass. “Sometimes I wonder why I do this job, who listens to bluegrass anyway? So I’ll continue to say whatever the fuck I please. I really don’t care if anyone agrees or disagrees.”

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Press - posted on December 17, 2014 by

Interview in Mountain Times

Hailing from Jacksonville, Fla., Grandpa’s Cough Medicine is in the midst of a run of shows in North Carolina that will include Boone.

After playing gigs in Asheville and Winston-Salem, the band will perform here at Murphy’s Restaurant & Pub on Friday Nov. 21, at the special start time of 9:30 p.m. Usually a headlining band will take the stage after midnight, but this earlier start time will give music lovers a chance to have some fun without having to stick around to the wee hours of the evening.

The cover charge for the show is $5, and following Grandpa’s Cough Medicine will be the local band, From Bears.

Grandpa’s Cough Medicine describes itself as “an outlaw bluegrass trio that ignores certain traditions of the genre, such as gospel themes and Blue Ridge mountain cabins, and instead focuses on frenetic picking, blazing tempos and dark subject matter.”

The group is made up of Brett Bass on guitar and vocals, Mike Coker on banjo and Jon Murphy on bass and vocals. The band just finished recording its soon-to-be-released third album, which will follow its previous recordings, “The Murder Chord” and “Jailbird Blues.”

The band has worked hard to spread its wings in this part of the country, creating a buzz while playing festivals, such as FloydFest and Suwanee Springfest. Grandpa’s will make its fifth appearance at the latter event this coming March in Live Oak, Fla.

The members of Grandpa’s Cough Medicine have never traveled to Boone. It is a highly-anticipated destination, especially for Bass, who has long been an admirer of the late local guitar legend Doc Watson.

“We’re excited because we haven’t been to Boone before, and I’m a Doc Watson fan, so it will be good to be in his hometown,” Bass said. “To me, Doc is the Earl Scruggs of the flatpick guitar world. Doc’s way of doing it is the way it’s supposed to go, as far as I’m concerned. He always just played the melody, and he always played it awesomely and fast and clean. That was always what impressed me about bluegrass to begin with, which was the speed of it.

“Also, (Western North Carolina native) Bryan Sutton is my favorite guitarist, man. He is one of the deepest influences on my playing, for sure. That guy is amazing on the guitar. I’m friends with Larry Keel and Jeff Autry, who are also great bluegrass flatpickers.”

The trio values its time onstage and appreciates an audience that is attentive and ready to have some fun.

“I like it when the guys and I are really in synch and having a good time and the people are responsive to it,” Bass said. “Anytime the people are actually listening and paying attention to it and responding, that’s a fun time onstage to me. The only time when it feels like drudgery is when you are in a flipping sports bar and there are all of these TVs on and no one gives a darn. You’re just background music, and that is when it feels like work.”

Bass and company look forward to seeing a bit of the High Country as they motor their way towards Boone.

“We’re playing in Asheville at the Isis Music Hall’s Tuesday bluegrass session, and we’re going to be the host band for that,” Bass said. “Then we’re going to play in Winston-Salem and then drive back to Asheville after the gig. We have friends in Asheville who will let us stay at their house. Part of the plan is to take the scenic route to Boone. I definitely want to go down and check out that Doc Watson statue that you have there.”

By Derek Halsey
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