Old As the Hills | Music | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine
Pin It
Favorite

Old As the Hills 

Last Updated: 08/07/2013 6:03 pm
click to enlarge The Hunger Mountain Boys - FIONN REILLY
  • Fionn Reilly
  • The Hunger Mountain Boys

Hunger Mountain is in Monterey, Massachusetts, about 10 miles east of Great Barrington. But on this early June day its peak is pretty much impossible to make out, thanks to the thick, rainy mist that blankets the Berkshires and makes the roads a sopping mess. On the other hand, the disagreeable weather also means it’s especially nice to be warm and dry in the Victorian parlor-like coziness of Barrington’s Club Helsinki, sharing tea and veggie burgers with Hunger Mountain Boys singer, guitarist, and dobro player Teddy Weber and string bassist Matt Downing.

“Kip (Beacco, 37, who sings and plays guitar, fiddle, and mandolin in the group) built a timber-frame house on that mountain,” says the sideburned, 30-year-old Weber from beneath his ever-present, beat-up fedora. “He and his family even live on Mount Hunger Road,” adds Downing, lean, scruffy, and 29.

Country-derived sounds have, of course, never fully disappeared from America’s musical landscape. But far too much of what’s been pumped out of Nashville in the name of country over the last several years has been either signifier-driven, boot-scootin’ schmaltz or, far worse, jingoistic, chest-beating hate music. Part of a burgeoning scene of new, tradition-conscious American acoustic artists, The Hunger Mountain Boys bypass the ill turns country has made in recent times, instead taking the music back to its 1920s and ’30s rural string-band roots and injecting it with just the right amount of Noughties consciousness.

The roots in Weber’s life, however, haven’t only been of those of the musical variety. “I grew up in a little town in northern New Jersey called Branchville,” he recalls. “And in 1996 I moved to Maine to study forestry.” While each of his fellow members also sports a noteworthy performing resume (Beacco played in garage and jazz-fusion bands; Downing did time in top Philadelphia bluegrass outfit Jim & Jennie and The Pinetops), Weber’s background is easily the most eclectic, including classical trumpet training and stints in ska bands and college jazz ensembles. After his tree-lined days in Maine, he went to Colorado for a year (“There’s a really big ‘newgrass’ scene there, but I wasn’t part of it.”) before ending up in the Berkshires in the fall of 2001.

“When I got here, right away, I was like ‘I gotta meet the local musicians. I gotta find out what’s going on around here,’” Weber says. After spying one of their posters, he checked out a few gigs by The Beartown Mountain Ramblers, an early band that featured Beacco and Downing (“We weren’t very good, but people loved us,” Downing says.) But Weber didn’t approach them directly.

“I had put up an ad saying, ‘Dobro player available for jamming or recording’ in a music store,” remembers Weber. “Of course, since there aren’t that many players around here who are into this stuff, Matt found the ad and called me up. We all started jamming at Kip’s house, me and about half the guys from the Ramblers and some other local musicians, and Kip and I just instantly hit it off. Matt was just about to go on the road with Jim & Jennie and The Pinetops, so the Ramblers were winding down and Kip was really gung-ho to start something with me.” And so with a hearty nod to legendary old-time country and bluegrass twosomes like those of the Delmore, Monroe, Louvin, Allen, and Stanley brothers, The Hunger Mountain Boys were born.

Weber and Beacco hit the festival and club circuits hard, where their trademark vintage suits and charming, microphone-sharing singing style made them stand out right away. But while cool visual elements are nice, they don’t amount to much if the band doesn’t have the goods to back them up. Rest assured, The Hunger Mountain Boys have the goods. In fact, they have the whole darn general store. On heart-tugging tear-jerkers like the timeless murder ballad “Katie Dear,” the pair’s aching high harmonies crest and coil around one another as they rise to meet the stars, helped along by the soaring slide of Weber’s steel dobro. On high-speed barnburners like the runaway “Departure Day,” Beacco’s razor-sharp mandolin sprints to the finish like a hunted fox, his agile fingers burning up the frets like pure white lightning.

After a time, the Boys decided to capture some of that lightning on disc. So they turned to Off The Beat-n-Track studios in nearby Sheffield, Massachusetts, where they cut their first two rollicking CDs, 2003’s Fashioned in the Old Way and 2004’s Blue Ribbon Waltz (both released on the group’s own Old-Fi Records and now out of print) with producer Todd Mack, who also hosts “The Off The Beat-n-Track Radio Show” on WKCR in Great Barrington.

Pin It
Favorite

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Hudson Valley Events

submit event
"Nivola: Sandscapes" @ Magazzino Italian Art

"Nivola: Sandscapes"

May 8-Jan. 10 — Features a selection of 50 works of sandcast sculpting by Costantino Nivola...
The Museum At Bethel Woods: Story of 60s & Woodstock @ The Museum at Bethel Woods

The Museum At Bethel Woods: Story of 60s & Woodstock

Sat., April 3, 10 a.m., Sun., April 4, 10 a.m., Mon., April 5, 10 a.m., Tue., April 6, 10 a.m., Wed., April 7, 10 a.m., Thu., April 8, 10 a.m., Fri., April 9, 10 a.m., Sat., April 10, 9 & 10:30 a.m., Sun., April 11, 10 a.m., Mon., April 12, 10 a.m., Tue., April 13, 10 a.m., Wed., April 14, 10 a.m., Thu., April 15, 10 a.m., Fri., April 16, 10 a.m., Sat., April 17, 10 a.m., Sun., April 18, 10 a.m., Mon., April 19, 10 a.m., Tue., April 20, 10 a.m., Wed., April 21, 10 a.m., Thu., April 22, 10 a.m., Fri., April 23, 10 a.m., Sat., April 24, 10 a.m., Sun., April 25, 10 a.m., Mon., April 26, 10 a.m., Tue., April 27, 10 a.m., Wed., April 28, 10 a.m., Thu., April 29, 10 a.m., Fri., April 30, 10 a.m., Sat., May 1, 10 a.m., Sun., May 2, 10 a.m., Mon., May 3, 10 a.m., Tue., May 4, 10 a.m., Wed., May 5, 10 a.m., Thu., May 6, 10 a.m., Fri., May 7, 10 a.m., Sat., May 8, 9 & 10:30 a.m., Sun., May 9, 10 a.m., Mon., May 10, 10 a.m., Tue., May 11, 10 a.m., Wed., May 12, 10 a.m., Thu., May 13, 10 a.m., Fri., May 14, 10 a.m., Sat., May 15, 10 a.m., Sun., May 16, 10 a.m., Mon., May 17, 10 a.m., Tue., May 18, 10 a.m., Wed., May 19, 10 a.m., Thu., May 20, 10 a.m., Fri., May 21, 10 a.m., Sat., May 22, 10 a.m., Sun., May 23, 10 a.m., Mon., May 24, 10 a.m., Tue., May 25, 10 a.m., Wed., May 26, 10 a.m., Thu., May 27, 10 a.m., Fri., May 28, 10 a.m., Sat., May 29, 10 a.m., Sun., May 30, 10 a.m., Mon., May 31, 10 a.m., Tue., June 1, 10 a.m., Wed., June 2, 10 a.m., Thu., June 3, 10 a.m., Fri., June 4, 10 a.m., Sat., June 5, 10 a.m., Sun., June 6, 10 a.m., Mon., June 7, 10 a.m., Tue., June 8, 10 a.m., Wed., June 9, 10 a.m., Thu., June 10, 10 a.m., Fri., June 11, 10 a.m., Sat., June 12, 9 & 10:30 a.m., Sun., June 13, 10 a.m., Mon., June 14, 10 a.m., Tue., June 15, 10 a.m., Wed., June 16, 10 a.m., Thu., June 17, 10 a.m., Fri., June 18, 10 a.m., Sat., June 19, 10 a.m., Sun., June 20, 10 a.m., Mon., June 21, 10 a.m., Tue., June 22, 10 a.m., Wed., June 23, 10 a.m., Thu., June 24, 10 a.m., Fri., June 25, 10 a.m., Sat., June 26, 10 a.m., Sun., June 27, 10 a.m., Mon., June 28, 10 a.m., Tue., June 29, 10 a.m., Wed., June 30, 10 a.m., Thu., July 1, 10 a.m., Fri., July 2, 10 a.m., Sat., July 3, 10 a.m., Sun., July 4, 10 a.m., Mon., July 5, 10 a.m., Tue., July 6, 10 a.m., Wed., July 7, 10 a.m., Thu., July 8, 10 a.m., Fri., July 9, 10 a.m., Sat., July 10, 9 & 10:30 a.m., Sun., July 11, 10 a.m., Mon., July 12, 10 a.m., Tue., July 13, 10 a.m., Wed., July 14, 10 a.m., Thu., July 15, 10 a.m., Fri., July 16, 10 a.m., Sat., July 17, 10 a.m., Sun., July 18, 10 a.m., Mon., July 19, 10 a.m., Tue., July 20, 10 a.m., Wed., July 21, 10 a.m., Thu., July 22, 10 a.m., Fri., July 23, 10 a.m., Sat., July 24, 10 a.m., Sun., July 25, 10 a.m., Mon., July 26, 10 a.m., Tue., July 27, 10 a.m., Wed., July 28, 10 a.m., Thu., July 29, 10 a.m., Fri., July 30, 10 a.m., Sat., July 31, 10 a.m., Sun., Aug. 1, 10 a.m., Mon., Aug. 2, 10 a.m., Tue., Aug. 3, 10 a.m., Wed., Aug. 4, 10 a.m., Thu., Aug. 5, 10 a.m., Fri., Aug. 6, 10 a.m., Sat., Aug. 7, 10 a.m., Sun., Aug. 8, 10 a.m., Mon., Aug. 9, 10 a.m., Tue., Aug. 10, 10 a.m., Wed., Aug. 11, 10 a.m., Thu., Aug. 12, 10 a.m., Fri., Aug. 13, 10 a.m., Sat., Aug. 14, 9 & 10:30 a.m., Sun., Aug. 15, 10 a.m., Mon., Aug. 16, 10 a.m., Tue., Aug. 17, 10 a.m., Wed., Aug. 18, 10 a.m., Thu., Aug. 19, 10 a.m., Fri., Aug. 20, 10 a.m., Sat., Aug. 21, 10 a.m., Sun., Aug. 22, 10 a.m., Mon., Aug. 23, 10 a.m., Tue., Aug. 24, 10 a.m., Wed., Aug. 25, 10 a.m., Thu., Aug. 26, 10 a.m., Fri., Aug. 27, 10 a.m., Sat., Aug. 28, 10 a.m., Sun., Aug. 29, 10 a.m., Mon., Aug. 30, 10 a.m., Tue., Aug. 31, 10 a.m., Wed., Sept. 1, 10 a.m., Thu., Sept. 2, 10 a.m., Fri., Sept. 3, 10 a.m., Sat., Sept. 4, 10 a.m., Sun., Sept. 5, 10 a.m., Mon., Sept. 6, 10 a.m., Tue., Sept. 7, 10 a.m., Wed., Sept. 8, 10 a.m., Thu., Sept. 9, 10 a.m., Fri., Sept. 10, 10 a.m., Sat., Sept. 11, 9 & 10:30 a.m., Sun., Sept. 12, 10 a.m., Mon., Sept. 13, 10 a.m., Tue., Sept. 14, 10 a.m., Wed., Sept. 15, 10 a.m., Thu., Sept. 16, 10 a.m., Fri., Sept. 17, 10 a.m., Sat., Sept. 18, 10 a.m., Sun., Sept. 19, 10 a.m., Mon., Sept. 20, 10 a.m., Tue., Sept. 21, 10 a.m., Wed., Sept. 22, 10 a.m., Thu., Sept. 23, 10 a.m., Fri., Sept. 24, 10 a.m., Sat., Sept. 25, 10 a.m., Sun., Sept. 26, 10 a.m., Mon., Sept. 27, 10 a.m., Tue., Sept. 28, 10 a.m., Wed., Sept. 29, 10 a.m., Thu., Sept. 30, 10 a.m., Fri., Oct. 1, 10 a.m., Sat., Oct. 2, 10 a.m., Sun., Oct. 3, 10 a.m., Mon., Oct. 4, 10 a.m., Tue., Oct. 5, 10 a.m., Wed., Oct. 6, 10 a.m., Thu., Oct. 7, 10 a.m., Fri., Oct. 8, 10 a.m., Sat., Oct. 9, 9 & 10:30 a.m., Sun., Oct. 10, 10 a.m., Mon., Oct. 11, 10 a.m., Tue., Oct. 12, 10 a.m., Wed., Oct. 13, 10 a.m., Thu., Oct. 14, 10 a.m., Fri., Oct. 15, 10 a.m., Sat., Oct. 16, 10 a.m., Sun., Oct. 17, 10 a.m., Mon., Oct. 18, 10 a.m., Tue., Oct. 19, 10 a.m., Wed., Oct. 20, 10 a.m., Thu., Oct. 21, 10 a.m., Fri., Oct. 22, 10 a.m., Sat., Oct. 23, 10 a.m., Sun., Oct. 24, 10 a.m., Mon., Oct. 25, 10 a.m., Tue., Oct. 26, 10 a.m., Wed., Oct. 27, 10 a.m., Thu., Oct. 28, 10 a.m., Fri., Oct. 29, 10 a.m., Sat., Oct. 30, 10 a.m., Sun., Oct. 31, 10 a.m., Mon., Nov. 1, 10 a.m., Tue., Nov. 2, 10 a.m., Wed., Nov. 3, 10 a.m., Thu., Nov. 4, 10 a.m., Fri., Nov. 5, 10 a.m., Sat., Nov. 6, 10 a.m., Sun., Nov. 7, 10 a.m., Mon., Nov. 8, 10 a.m., Tue., Nov. 9, 10 a.m., Wed., Nov. 10, 10 a.m., Thu., Nov. 11, 10 a.m., Fri., Nov. 12, 10 a.m., Sat., Nov. 13, 9 & 10:30 a.m., Sun., Nov. 14, 10 a.m., Mon., Nov. 15, 10 a.m., Tue., Nov. 16, 10 a.m., Wed., Nov. 17, 10 a.m., Thu., Nov. 18, 10 a.m., Fri., Nov. 19, 10 a.m., Sat., Nov. 20, 10 a.m., Sun., Nov. 21, 10 a.m., Mon., Nov. 22, 10 a.m., Tue., Nov. 23, 10 a.m., Wed., Nov. 24, 10 a.m., Thu., Nov. 25, 10 a.m., Fri., Nov. 26, 10 a.m., Sat., Nov. 27, 10 a.m., Sun., Nov. 28, 10 a.m., Mon., Nov. 29, 10 a.m., Tue., Nov. 30, 10 a.m., Wed., Dec. 1, 10 a.m., Thu., Dec. 2, 10 a.m., Fri., Dec. 3, 10 a.m., Sat., Dec. 4, 10 a.m., Sun., Dec. 5, 10 a.m., Mon., Dec. 6, 10 a.m., Tue., Dec. 7, 10 a.m., Wed., Dec. 8, 10 a.m., Thu., Dec. 9, 10 a.m., Fri., Dec. 10, 10 a.m., Sat., Dec. 11, 9 & 10:30 a.m., Sun., Dec. 12, 10 a.m., Mon., Dec. 13, 10 a.m., Tue., Dec. 14, 10 a.m., Wed., Dec. 15, 10 a.m., Thu., Dec. 16, 10 a.m., Fri., Dec. 17, 10 a.m., Sat., Dec. 18, 10 a.m., Sun., Dec. 19, 10 a.m., Mon., Dec. 20, 10 a.m., Tue., Dec. 21, 10 a.m., Wed., Dec. 22, 10 a.m., Thu., Dec. 23, 10 a.m., Fri., Dec. 24, 10 a.m., Sat., Dec. 25, 10 a.m., Sun., Dec. 26, 10 a.m., Mon., Dec. 27, 10 a.m., Tue., Dec. 28, 10 a.m., Wed., Dec. 29, 10 a.m., Thu., Dec. 30, 10 a.m. and Fri., Dec. 31, 10 a.m.

View all of today's events

Chronogram on Instagram

Latest in Arts & Culture

  • Celebrating Juneteenth 2021 in the Hudson Valley
  • Celebrating Juneteenth 2021 in the Hudson Valley

    Juneteenth marks the official end of slavery in America on June 19, 1865. Today, the holiday focuses on Black achievements and culture, recognition of inequality and systemic racism in the United States, and the ongoing fight for equal rights. 2021 brings an expanded list of ways to celebrate Black freedom and to reckon with the racial past and present of the United States.
    • Jun 14, 2021
  • 8 Great Hudson Valley Events This Week
  • 8 Great Hudson Valley Events This Week

    The return of summer fun is here.
    • Jun 14, 2021
  • The Reher Center Holds Kingston's Ninth Annual Multicultural Festival
  • The Reher Center Holds Kingston's Ninth Annual Multicultural Festival

    This June 13, 20, and 27, the Reher Center for Immigrant Culture and History hosts its ninth annual Kingston Multicultural Festival. Participants will be able to watch performances by dancers, musicians, and poets from diverse backgrounds in the TR Gallo Park gazebo. There will be pop-up eateries, each with their own informational posters about the history and culture of the food they’re making and serving. Central to this year's festival is the Worry Dolls Project, or "Proyecto Muñecas Quitapenas" in Spanish, a Guatemalan craft tradition brought to over 700 local Kingston students.
    • Jun 7, 2021
  • More »