Hot Day at the Zoo
Contributing Writer : Garret K. Woodward
“The night of the recording was pure magic,” said banjoist Jon Cumming. “Just one of those nights where the band and the audience came together as one.”
Taped at the Waterhole (Saranac Lake, New York) on Valentine’s Day 2009, Zoograss (released Jan. 12) is one of those live albums that will turn into a word-of-mouth sensation as the rhythm of time passes.
“The live recording catches us at a pivotal time in our musical journey,” Cumming said. “We had just taken on JT Lawrence [mandolin] as our newest member. We started to find a new voice and a new energy that we were all very excited about.”
The legendary music venue has come to be known as the headquarters of the gonzo bluegrass quartet. Filled with rowdy, foot stomping Adirondack locals (and plenty of drinks to drown a small army), the ambiance aligned perfectly with the overzealous approach of the Massachusetts group.
“The Waterhole is just a really cool place that has great people running it,” said Cumming. “[It has] a good atmosphere, a good sound system and engineer. The fans up there are good listeners who know good music when they hear it. Give them a good show and they will return the favor.”
Charging up the hillside with “One Day Soon” and “Mercy of the Sea”, the rebel yells and string bombardment fill the ear with a cacophony of traditional numbers amid a plethora of original material destined to become the former.
Independently releasing the album, HDATZ embraces the opportunity to go in a different direction amid a recording industry clinging to life.
“The current music industry is definitely redefining itself. Gone are the
days of needing to catch a label, big or small,” Cumming said. “It is all very possible to
do it yourself these days. Build your fan base. Sell your CDs. Get out there and play.”
“I think the grassroots method is definitely more attractive and that’s how we like doing it and how it seems to be working. We want to be different by breaking boundaries and not holding to some paradigm of string music.”