“Stomp Grass” is the term Lucy Tight and Wayne Waxing of “Hymn For Her” have used to describe their unique fusion of bluegrass, punk and Southern rock. The phrase is quite apt. Their new album, “Lucy & Wayne and the Amairican Stream” is about as raucous and gloriously grimy as bluegrass gets. In retrospect, adding fuzzed-out guitars and unbridled, punk energy to the Americana aesthetic seems obvious, but it is to the duo’s credit that the songwriting is strong enough to keep the whole ramshackle affair shuffling along.
It wasn’t always this way: the group had its genesis as a strictly folk duo. “Everything was stripped down,” Lucy says, “we shared one mic…we wouldn’t even look at the audience”. That all changed one fateful night in Maine when they decided to dig out an old cigar box guitar for that evening’s show. “We were doing the folky thing,” she explains, “and everybody was, ‘oh that’s nice’, but we pulled that out and everybody got up and started dancing, and just, like, whooping and hollering”.
“Lucy & Wayne and the Amairican Stream” likewise elicits such a response. The album’s best moments come with a head-down, surging energy, such as with the first track, “Slips,” where a furious banjo intro heralds an infectious, sing-along chorus before culminating in a thumping breakdown. “Sea” is a tremendous indie-pop number at its core, but it ultimately sets itself apart with an ominous, dirgelike rumble. The band barrels through the album with reckless glee, whether yelping through the poppy chorus on “C’mon” or working the bluegrass template to perfection on “Fiddlestix”.
It would be easy for “Hymn For Her” to get too caught up in their own shtick, for "Amairican Stream" to become an exercise in style over substance, burying itself in its cloying trappings. Thankfully, the duo provides moments of melancholic beauty to stand alongside their ripping rockers. “Not” is a lovely number punctuated by breathless vocals and haunting xylophone that showcases a heartbreakingly sincere portrayal of loneliness and self-doubt lying just beneath the sheen of bravado.
As good as the album is, it ultimately serves as a setup for the live show, a blistering, high-energy showcase of multi-instrumental wizardry and down and dirty Americana. Sure, “Amairican Stream” is raw, but there is a fullness and crispness to the playing that belies the band’s claims of its piecemeal creation in the back of a trailer as they toured the country. One could be understandably dubious towards any effort to recreate these tracks live with only two musicians, believing that surely there must be some unsung third member to pick up the slack. Even if one took them at their word that the duo alone provided the instrumentation, it would be a difficult feat to properly conceptualize the marvel that is Wayne Waxing powering down on his acoustic guitar and expelling a screeching harmonica solo while he stomps out a pulsing beat on the bass drum and hi-hat. All the while, Lucy Tight is laying down a supercharged, Wah-laden riff via that cigar box guitar of hers. This can all be heard on the album, of course, but the musicianship is so tight that it sounds like the work of a quintet. Only under the dim lights, amid the boozy, whooping crowd does the band’s magic become plainly evident. “Hymn For Her” shook Martyr’s to its core last Friday night, blowing away spectators with a hurricane of frenzied, joyous rock. Operating on a level of primal force, they are tailor-made for the road, for the dank bars and the stiflingly humid summer festivals. Although Lucy insists they are still learning to navigate life as a constantly touring band, claiming “we’re just getting our feet on the ground. Where are we at here? What are we doing?” the duo carries themselves both on stage and off like seasoned road warriors, rolling with the ebb and flow of their fortunes, able to win over a crowd full of strangers with their raw energy and tuneful songs.
As the band’s tour rolls on, bigger and better venues and crowds seem inevitable. Their sound’s too infectious and vibrant to not find a larger audience. Will they consider expanding the band’s membership to face the growing masses? “Let’s keep it a duo,” Lucy says, “it’s cool to be a duo. It’s working.”
Damn right it’s working.
“Hymn For Her” play the Melody Inn in Indianapolis on Friday, October 7th. View their full tour schedule and purchase "Lucy & Wayne and The Amairican Stream" on their official site.