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The Random Hubiak Recommends: Harmony Hot Haus

Time for another shout-out to other fantastic songwriters, singers, and musicians still toiling in relative obscurity. This week, we offer due props to bluegrass outfit Harmony Hot Haus from Harmony PA.

I first encountered these guys three IndieFests ago in Oil City (which would make it 2017, when I had saxophonist Michael Squillace in tow with me), where they put on a kick-ass set and we swapped CDs. They had a fantastic rhythm section that kept the guitar and fiddle locked in tight, which is not to diminish in any regard the work of the treble musicians: Nic plays a mean guitar, and Sean’s fiddling is utterly incendiary.

That first CD of theirs, Sideways Spectacle, is an affair of highly engaging and mostly traditional acoustic music. There’s the country and bluegrass feel that is instantly recognizable, but there’s also a dark and enthralling thread of American gothic story-telling, Appalachian-Style, permeating the bulk of the tracks — murder ballads feel right at home alongside lighter rollicking fare.

The following year, I talked Nic into joining me onstage at the last minute for two or three of my originals (specifically, the ones with the easiest chord progressions for somebody unfamiliar with my entire oeuvre), a feat he repeated in 2019’s festival as well, albeit this year with an electric banjo, which made “Sad Sack” feel like Heart’s “Dreamboat Annie” or Nilsson’s “I Guess the Lord Must Be in New York City.”

Last year, after Nic joined me for the first time, we swapped more CDs, and I was able to listen to their latest offering, The Long Forgotten Friend. While it shares its predecssor’s penchant for traditional instrumentation and a dichotomy of darkness and humour, I found them branching out to incorporating elements from other genres into the latest album. There are shades of cowpunk, death doo wop/swampbilly, Celtic, and (especially ib the final two tracks) power ballad anthems in the arrangements. Furthermore, the boys’ engineering prowess has clearly grown, as they are able to more fully employ the studio for clean sounds (they’ve tamed that bass that sometimes seemed to overwhelm some of the early album’s tracks) and wider, richer panning.

If you like Americana, bluegrass, or any of the other aforementioned genres, I highly recommend that you head over to the band’s official website, where you can stream their music and follow them on whatever your preferred social media platforms are!

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