Press - posted on February 18, 2015 by


What in the all hell is happening through these speakers lately? I swear, I’ve actually got a few of them pulled apart and I’m checking the insides to see if someone’s playing a prank on me here today and there’s like, an endless source of countrified-music playing on repeat in there and my actual volume controls have all been somehow disabled. I’m just that paranoid.

Now that the rant is out…I suppose the best thing I can say to start this review is that there is of course, a massive difference between what would be considered country-music (like earlier this week through Jacob Bryant) or something like what we’ve got here in the brilliantly-named band from down south, Grandpa’s Cough Medicine, which is decidedly bluegrass. At least I think so? I’ll admit…those two genres are outside my normal genres…is it the sheer ability and overwhelming skill that makes bluegrass music bluegrass music? I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything in that genre that I’d ever consider to be lazy by any means, whereas I have heard quite enough cliché cookie-cutter, bored-ass country musicians to last me a lifetime.

But case in point, and I know I’m jumping ahead here just a tiny bit…but “Midnight Coker,” jeeeeezus! This song is completely incredible and completely insanely-paced out. If you have any doubt about the skill, precision and ability you need to hold your own in a bluegrass track – then look no further than this song by Grandpa’s Cough Medicine, hang up your banjo, sit the fuck down and listen to how it’s really done RIGHT while you enjoy your new-found retirement from music completely.

Shit. I used a cuss word. Can I do that in a bluegrass review?

At least that’s what hooks me in personally. The phenomenal skill of this band is on immediate display with “180 Proof;” the pickin’ comes rippin at you, proving that these bluegrass bands, or at the very least THIS one can play with every bit of the intensity, speed and clarity of the best of the best in punk & metal genres. I’m sitting here just blown away by the precision, tone and clarity that comes out through these performances. “Liquid Courage,” sells out the rest of the crowd that didn’t immediately buy into “180 Proof;” it’s played with true melody and sung out with real heart. The change-ups and switches between banjo & guitars sounds perfect as the rip through this one at a slightly slower pace & twice the complexity. I try not to pull quotes direct too often…but they promise “satisfaction guaranteed” in this very track…I think that’s apt.

Now…there’s always going to be a little bit of a…I dunno…let’s just call it the ol’ Boss-Hog feeling to the music of bluegrass…hits a little of that Dukes Of Hazard kind of vibe in spots don’t it? I’m not sure if this style of music even gets a choice when it comes down to it; songs like “Van Trip” sound like what I’d expect to hear in bluegrass for the most part…but like, LISTEN to the performance around just before two-minutes in…the playing is absolutely incredible. It’s differences like that which are separating Grandpa’s Cough Medicine from the rest…their instincts for writing dynamic switches in their sound are top-freakin’-notch.

“Mama Played Bass” also kind of follows a familiar old-style rhythm, but you gotta love the words, dedication and commitment to their style. Vocally throughout this album, they’ve been in complete sonic-harmony…this Jacksonville, Florida band sounds perfect when they’re singing together. There are elements of almost like, barbershop-style melodies on here in addition to fantastic full-band harmonies and then more isolated leads like you’ll find on “Every Critter In The County.”

Ok wait….did I just hear that? Cause if that was what I heard…that’s one brilliant line…

I did hear that; and I’m quoting this band once again – “A man is only as old as the woman he feels.”

I almost spit my coffee out this made me grin so hard. The lyrics to “.22” are nothing short of pure brilliance; they’re tongue-in-cheek I’m assuming, lest they’re looking for a lynchin’ in today’s world – but that’s a safe assumption as much of this album has golden lines of the purest humour dripping from the microphones. “Respect The Shine” is another great example of what fantastic storytellers Grandpa’s Cough Medicine become in a song, and how the way that they play it would truly bring a smile to anyone’s face. Absolutely one of my favourites on this album, which, kind of surprising me with how charming and captivating it has been. 180 Proof, as an album, certainly holds MY attention…I’d bet it would yours as well.

“Flat Pick-Diculous” is exactly that. Much like “Midnight Coker,” this is the kind of song that would make you quit before you started into playing bluegrass yourself as an amateur. I mean, HOPEFULLY it inspires you to make something of this high-caliber of awesomeness one day…but chances are you’ll sit here with your jaw & mouth wide open catching flies wondering how in the hell they DO THIS like I am right now. Excellent fiddle playing in this one after the second minute, joining a succession of amazing abilities on display here in this song. Not even joking – this is some true virtuoso-type-shit right here. Astounding.

Which makes the beginning of “A Song For Bass And Banjo” and the ensuing tale all the more hilarious. Definitely the brightest moment on the album for humor – this is a great little tune that tells the sorrows of their very own of their very own Brett Bass and the trials & tribulations of him attempting to get his shit together after busting up some strings of the ol’ gee-tar. In a twist on their sound, you can almost hear the old-school rock of like…Elvis in the opening of “Denim Prison” before it jumps into something decidedly more Johnny Cash. As far as the country-aspect of bluegrass music goes, or at least theirs – this is about as close to country-music as they get on this album; but again, the humour shines through.

Okay. Wasn’t expecting to like OR love “La La Lolly” – but alas, here I am. The pop-instincts driving this folk-bluegrass tune are just incredible; more akin to something The Beatles might have come up with back in their prime. Not their commercialized prime – the good one. The melody is just immaculate pop-perfection on this one.

And this NEXT comment…I mean only as a compliment…no matter how it may sound…

Aside from the Dukes Of Hazard-y feeling the music brings me into; I also end up feeling like a hot-dog & nachos the more I listen to the wild instrumentals like “Keel’s Reel;” I mean…I don’t know about YOUR drive-in movie theater, but mine has this twirling hot-dog dude and a rad swinging ice-cream bar all dancing around and getting you psyched to scoff some grub all whilst playing this exact kind of music. Damn you guys – I’m wide enough already thank you very much…

“Blood And Justice” is another example of the excellent lyricism within Grandpa’s Cough Medicine. This track is a great, classic-style rhythm, complete with their virtuoso-solo-breakdowns, excellent vocals and flow…and again, brilliant lyrics. Nothing like a murder song with a happy tune & beat playing in the background to bring some warmth and heart to what otherwise might have been a somewhat grim situation. Great tale, great tune. Okay – I like bluegrass guys…I give up.

They close out on the poignant “Westboro Waltz,” sneaking in some smartly-written social-commentary and dropping some real politics on us here in this final cut. There have been so many levels of innovation on this album that it has become difficult to keep track of them all.

So it’s a good thing I wrote all this down.

It’s an even better thing that I have the music to repeat over and over and remind me anytime I want.

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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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