Philadelphia-based Hoots & Hellmouth (MAD Dragon Records) creates new music for old souls. Blending the twisted roots of American music in a fierce and fiery alchemy, this ragtag bunch seeks a revival of spirit. Outfitted with three-part harmonies, acoustic guitars, mandolin, upright bass and foot stomps, Hoots and Hellmouth enliven your spirit through their blend of Americana style and punk rock attitude. “This music is at once a celebration and a mourning – championing the human potential to feel deeply and come together as a unified whole” describes the band’s Sean Hoots.
Rob Berliner, Andrew Gray and Sean Hoots return as the core trio of string slingers and harmonious vocalizers, co-producing “The Holy Open Secret” in collaboration with fellow Philadelphian Bill Moriarty (Dr. Dog, Man Man) at American Diamond studio, and the album is a sweet blend of folk, bluegrass, gospel, and good old rock and roll.
At once fresh and vibrant, yet somehow strangely familiar, the tunes on the new album cover a lot of ground both stylistically and lyrically while maintaining a central focus on song-craft. The opening salvo, “Root Of The Industry,” rips from the speakers with a sweaty, country gospel-soaked exhortation to all listeners to “gather up your axes and hack your way to the root of the industry.” Fast on its heels, “You And All Of Us” brings the party as it celebrates true community spirit in an almost N’awlins-style “second line” feel.
Elsewhere, softer yet no less earnest tracks such as “Ne’er Do Well” and “Dishpan Hands” balance the rollicking vibe, draping meditations on domesticity and personal ache over gauzy frameworks of plucked banjo and ethereal organ. “Badman”, another ballad sung by Hellmouth, is a 1960’s-esque sorrow-tinged warning to a loved one, warning of the pain he could cause her.
“What Good Are Plowshare If We Use Them Like Swords” sees the band head off to church arraying spirited call-and-response vocals over swelling organ. “We aim to be a light that covers the entire spectrum,” says Hoots of their multifarious new offering.
Since their inception, Hoots & Hellmouth have been touring relentlessly both on their own and with friends (Dr. Dog, O’Death, Grace Potter, Railroad Earth, Langhorne Slim, Heartless Bastards). The band’s unique style of acoustic Americana mayhem provides a flexibility that allows them to perform in all manner of venues, from rock clubs to folk fests. Each stop garners new fans, as word continues to spread of their undeniably compelling performances. Enthusiastic festival appearances have included Langerado, Wakarusa and the venerable Philadelphia Folk Festival.
The band performed over 150 shows in 2008, and plans to do even more with the new album. Already confirmed festivals for this summer include Wakarusa, WXPN XPoNential Weekend, Musikfest, Summerfolk Ottawa and Bristol Rhythm and Blues Fest.
With “The Holy Open Secret” the band also hopes to further unite their passion for music with an aim toward radical “localism.” Forever on tour, Hoots & Hellmouth see every stop along the trail as a fresh opportunity to help strengthen a sense of local community with their energizing performances and unifying spirit. “It’s about bleeding, sweating, crying, rejoicing,” Hoots says of their work. “It’s alive!” Blending the twisted roots of American music with their own feisty, independent stance, this band forments a musical revival of audience participation that continues to barnstorm across the United States and Canada.