Acoustic instruments rarely thump. They twang, they clang, they jump, they bump, they glide, they slide, they rattle. But they don't often thump or slash or bang or do any of the kinds of things rock & roll instruments do. As a result, musicians who write for acoustic instruments aren't usually working in rock idioms. They use different rhythms, different chords, different structures. But not Split Lip Rayfield, a Kansas-based band that applies bluegrass sounds to rock concepts and creates something fresh.Country music forms have been mating with punk rock for at least two decades, in a lineage that includes bands such as X and, more overtly, Blood in the Saddle. These groups took country songs and played them on rock instruments. Now, Split Lip Rayfield mixes genres so thoroughly that it's hard to pinpoint the origins of the band's ideas.
On their recently released third CD, Never Make It Home (Bloodshot), songs such as "Movin' to Virginia" and "Record Shop" and "PB24SS" boast poppy hooks, country/bluegrass chord changes and rock-inflected vocals. There are virtually no solos from the mandolin, acoustic guitar, banjo or stand-up bass. In the end, bluegrass may be too formal a genre to accept this band, but, fortunately, rock & roll is waiting with open arms.