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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

This Week's Featured Musician

Hot Buttered Rum

Hot Buttered Rum, one of the hardest-working and fastest-rising acts in acoustic rock, began in the San Francisco Bay Area with a lineup full of uniquely talented singer-songwriter/instrumentalists setting out to create a new Northern California sound. The Bay Area claims credit for producing dozens of bands, from Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead, and Old and In the Way, to the Mother Hips, Green Day, Metallica, and beyond. From this fertile ground sprang Hot Buttered Rums own infectious blend of American styles folk, rock, jazz, and newgrass all informed by the landscape of their home.

Shunning stagnation in any form, Hot Buttered Rum diligently continues to hone their sound through 150+ live performances a year, with each show boasting a unique setlist and feel. Often referred to as a rock band with bluegrass instruments, the band recently has blended drums and electric instruments into their otherwise acoustic folk-rock live performances. This evolution will lead Hot Buttered Rum into the studio in January with producer Tim Bluhm of the Mother Hips to further refine their sound.

Like so many great Bay Area bands before them, Hot Buttered Rum makes no separation between their music and their activism. They unapologetically undergird their shows with songs about social equality, environmental responsibility, and political change, and then back it up by touring in a biofueled bus and donating their time to service work at schools, Native American reservations, and political fundraisers. Believing that the 2008 presidential election was the most important one in a generation, Hot Buttered Rum lent their support to Democratic candidates by appearing at political events like the September 16, 2008, Oakland Rocks for Change fundraiser, and, in an attempt to energize like-minded citizens to enact meaningful change, they offered free downloads of their songs ?Reckless Tex? and ?Guns or Butter? from their website during the election season.

Embracing an out-on-the-range sound for the sake of parody, guitarist Nat Keefe wrote Reckless Tex as a protest piece in advance of the 2004 presidential election, employing metaphor to launch a vitriolic attack on the obvious though never named subject of the song: President George W. Bush. The lyrics persuade the listener to agree with the songs refrain that This reckless cowboy swagger's not becoming of a man. Guns or Butter takes a century-old economic concept about military versus domestic spending and makes it swing and swing hard. Should we teach our kids to read, or invade Timbuktu? asks multi-instrumentalist Erik Yates, driving home the idea that while smart-bombs are falling on Iraq, our countrys schools are falling behind.

Hot Buttered Rums progressiveness can only be described as organic. The bands vibrant egalitarian structure, in which all members contribute equally, results in an energetic exchange and magnetic chemistry seen most clearly in the band?s transfixing live performances. These same democratic underpinnings characterize Hot Buttered Rum?s virtual presence and the band?s relationship with its multigenerational, nationwide fanbase. Multi-night appearances often include organized community get-togethers and kids sets in nearby parks, creating a productive meeting space for band members and fans to exchange ideas and support. Hot Buttered Rum encourages audience photography and audio recording of their shows, but the band also turns the cameras on their fans, taking View from the Stage photos of the audience and posting them on the website for all to see. The website itself is a virtual meeting space where the band and fans can stay in touch. Band members use the content-rich site to share blog entries from the road; to host a fan discussion forum; to simulcast their shows to internet listeners (while providing a chat room so internet listeners can enjoy each other?s company during the show); to showcase in a Green section the band's eco-friendly tour bus and enviro-/socio-/political resume; and to provide sundry other regularly rotating media that help ensure a participatory, creative experience for all involved.

Check out for more information about the rising star that is Hot Buttered Rum.

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