Members of Athens, Georgia’s Packway Handle Band are devotees of the same kind of retropluck sound as Chatham County Line and Steep Canyon Rangers—a rousing gospel/roots jangle filtered through a bluegrass sensibility.
The follow-up to a pair of studio gems, EP Extreme is a seven-song nugget that presents the live side of PHB from various locales in 2006. The tunes embody high-lonesome harmonies and old-timey nostalgia with the potency of backwoods moonshine. Singer-guitarist Michael Paynter leads the vocal assemblage of this traditionally stringed bluegrass quintet with three others providing backup and a whole lot of harmonizing in the process.
The EP’s bulk is comprised of traditional tunes, with the various selections having been remade in the past by such heavyweights as Newgrass Revival, Doc Watson and the godfather himself, Bill Monroe. “Sinner, You Better Get Ready” showcases the band’s four-part gospel harmonies set against bluegrass bravado. “Tell It To Me” is prefaced with a story about an Englishman snorting liquor in southwest Montana.
“Shelva Ann” and “Throw Away The Key” are two originals that show PHB is capable of creating contemporary tunes without ever straying too far from tradition. (Jonathan Stumpf)
Packway Handle Band plays The Loft Saturday, Aug. 25, at 10 PM. Cover TBA.