Record Review - 1 September 18 2003

Even those anxious to dismiss Hayseed Dixie's "bluegrass- ization" of AC/DC, Kiss and other hard-rock heavyweights as a low-class novelty admit there is actual talent lurking behind those covers. Not only could these mystery guys — their real names were absent from the tongue-in-cheek liner notes — play with blinding proficiency, but their savvy rearrangements of shlock-rock classics revealed a deep understanding of traditional mountain music.

So it's surprising that the Kerosene Brothers — the members' first non-Hayseed project — is more predictable than their pickin' and grinnin' alter ego. Thumping drums, arena-ready electric guitar and sporadic organ muscle up the sound further than the acoustic, drumless sound of the past. Don Wayne Reno's crackling banjo and brother Dale Reno's jittery mandolin get a little lost in the mix, and singer/guitarist/fiddler John Wheeler's originals aren't as catchy as the classics Hayseed transformed into bluegrass pick-alongs.

Steroid-fueled tracks such as "Shady Grove," "Farther Along" and "Katy Daly" try too hard to pump up the volume, yielding mixed results. Yet the trio successfully navigates the distance separating fist-pumping, spandex rock with its overall-wearing, inbred cousin on the power chord-injected "In the Pines."

Unlike Hayseed's novel approach, the Brothers aren't doing anything Charlie Daniels and the Byrds didn't do 30 years ago. Combining the best aspects of their dual personas into one identity may work — Kerosene Dixie, anyone?

Kerosene Brothers and Hayseed Dixie play Smith's Olde Bar Thurs., Sept. 25. $10.