Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Patrick Stolley
A rustling of dead, papery autumn leaves seems to be cast in the harvest-time mood of what you're about to or just finished listening to from Philadelphia's Hoots & Hellmouth. It is with gentle, gravitational bursts, bolts and bottoming-outs that these boys from Pennsylvania lay their smoke-in-the-flannel bluegrass into the twilight moon-powered evening. It's not necessarily for the dinner crowd and it's not for those just back from tubing down the snaking, choppy river - happily sunburnt and looking for that needed beer. It's for those hours of digestion post-meal and before one makes the decision to imbibe too much or just continue on the pathway of maintaining a dull roar of inebriation.
There will be thoughts of mortality mingling with every different faction of people-being-people stories, leaning toward those of the hard-working, blue-collared men and women with two mortgages and mouths to feed, even if it's only their own two mouths. It's put into perspective that we can all be pinched and when we see a man in a bind, it's for one of two reasons - love or money - and rarely anything in between. It's how we're kept from blinking too many extra times, these absolute trouble-making subjects that there's no help escaping from or diminishing or cutting out of our lives. They are - next to food and water - some of the necessities that are part of the wellness scheme. Love of and for friends and family and a general ability to stay in the black financially are strong points that everyone - including this band of rustic buddies - addresses with predictable regularity. Sean Hoots sings, "I'm broke as shit. Bankrupt," leaving very little up to the imagination as to where they're coming from, but he sounds neither unhappy nor downtrodden about his status, just stating a fact that we've all had or still have as our own.
With an up-tempo feel to the way he presents the facts, there's nothing about it that makes it feel as if the poverty is a lead belt, pulling him down to the muddy bottom of the lake. The petty grievances we have with the world are lost on the guys from Hoots, finding themselves filed between "don't give a shit" and "you're worried about that?" There are more important priorities to keep steady about - like a commonwealth of camaraderie and high regard for brotherhood, finding a spot for everyone to be included at the big table. The songs on the band's eponymous full-length debut bulge with the kinds of homegrown sentiments and billowing, hayrack ride flavors that could only be grown within the ground, raised up through the natural process rain water, nutrient-rich soil and abundant sunshine. The songs have toothpicks in the corners of the same mouths that are spitting out watermelon seeds and tobacco juices, giving off a raw as tree bark consistency that is wooden floor sheen. Hoots again sings to remind us what the band's all about, "Give me something pure. Give it to me good." It's the modus operandi that oversees all of the other minor operations that could ever arise. It's about no artificial parts or preservatives, just the ugly ass truth - and the horse that it rode in on.