New Mexico’s Hoth Brothers Band hit the UK for the first time
This week sees New Mexico’s Hoth Brothers Band arrive in the UK for their first tour over here. They were supposed to be here back in 2020 following the release of their first album, the highly acclaimed ‘Workin’ And Dreamin’‘ (a runner up for best album in AUK’s 2019 Readers’ Poll) but the tour was of course kicked into touch by the pandemic. Since then they have released a follow-up album, ‘Tell Me You How You Feel‘ which was equally applauded. The trio (Bard Edrington V, Boris McCutcheon and Sarah Ferrell) are influenced by old-time folk and country music with most of their songs written by Edrington and McCutcheon, the pair taking much of their inspiration from the unique landscape and the flora and fauna of New Mexico. Looking forward to our first opportunity to hear their “salt cured New Mexicana” songs live, AUK spoke to Bard Edrington V and Sarah Ferrell via Zoom and we started by asking them if either of them had been to the UK before in any of their various guises.
Bard Edrington V (BE): This is the first time in the UK for me. I’ve passed through London airport before but for me and Sarah this is the first time, I believe Boris has played there before, a long time ago supporting The Handsome Family but this is the first time the Hoth Brothers are getting to play over there and I’m really excited to be going there and seeing the country. I mean we’ve been trying to set this up since the first album came out and we were all set to come over in 2020 but you know what happened.
You played Holland recently.
BE: Yes, I did a short tour with my solo band and it was a blast, there’s like a super dedicated fan base there and I’m hoping it will be the same in the UK. It was really nice because in the States it can be really hard to get people to come out to see live music, in Holland a lot of people came along to the shows. We get much more press coverage in the UK than we get at home and we really appreciate it. It’s exciting to be able to play for the people who have bought our albums and those who voted for our album in your annual awards poll.
Sarah Ferrell (SF): Yes, it’s my first time in the UK and I’m really looking forward to it, especially going to Scotland. I’ve been studying up on that, listening to a podcast by a guy from Glasgow and I’ve got some Scots ancestry apparently.
BE: Yesterday Sarah and I were together and it was like, OK, we need to try and figure out the differences between the United Kingdom, Great Britain, the British Isles and all that so we did a little geography lesson just to prepare ourselves. So we know we’re playing England and Scotland but we don’t get to see Ireland or Wales.
You’ll get to see a lot of great places on the tour and you end the tour playing at two festivals, Gate To Southwell and Maverick, I take it you are looking forward to that.
BE: The festival looks like a lot of fun. What’s cool about tours like this is getting to play at little clubs, theatres, community centres and the like and then finish it off with the festivals where we get to play our music to a large group of fans who might not have heard of us at all and hoping that they enjoy it.
You’ve got two albums under your belt. Have you got another on the way or some new material to play on the tour?
BE: We haven’t got another album planned yet but we’re always writing so there will be plenty of new songs to play on the tour and we’ll be doing songs from Boris’ and mine’s solo albums, between the three of us we have years of music we’ve been writing as Hoth Brothers and on our own. One thing we have which is new is that we’ll have Karina Wilson playing with us on fiddle. She’s been on my solo albums and has played with the Hoth Brothers several times so she’s coming over and we’ll be a four-piece for the tour. She’s fantastic, a fiddle player who again is steeped in old-time traditional music and she’s a great singer. Our shows will be a tour of New Mexico and the Southwest United States. Audiences will learn the history of Pueblo revolts in New Mexico, float down rivers, ride long-forgotten trains, travel into the desert to witness spring and cross the border into old Mexico. The stories and music will paint a picture of where we call home.
How important is the culture and tradition of New Mexico to the songs you write?
BE: New Mexico is so unique and diverse in so many ways and it’s difficult not to be inspired by the landscape. There’s such a beautiful contrast at times, beautiful mountains, deserts, rivers, it’s like feast or famine, we go from drought to super wet and the landscape changes, it’s really inspiring.
I was thinking of songs like ‘Slickhorn’, and ‘Cliff Fendler’.
BE: Slickhorn is a canyon on the San Juan River which runs through New Mexico, Utah and Colorado. Boris wrote the song after both our families took a rafting trip about 80 miles down the river and when you get to Utah there’s Slickhorn which is just awe-inspiring with beautiful springs seeping out of the mountainside. Cliff Fendler is a local plant and Boris wrote that one also. It’s funny, he’s inspired by plants and I’m inspired by birds.
Do you write Sarah?
SF: I haven’t written for the band so far. I did just write a song the other day with Bard but it’s pretty sporadic. These guys are always writing and I’m happy to be playing their songs.
BE: Boris and I are always encouraging Sarah to write more because we’d like her to sing more lead vocals with us so we’re pushing her forward.
Mind you, if Sarah starts to add songs you’ll probably need to bring out a double album as the last two have been pretty lengthy affairs.
BE: Yes, Boris and I aren’t very good at discarding songs, we tend to say, yeah, let’s put them all on the disc.
Are there any new adventures for Robbie who has appeared in two songs so far (‘Wild Robbie’ and ‘The Wilding Of Robbie’).
BE: We’ve been working on one so it will be a trilogy of songs about him, a whole narrative and we might get to unveil it on this tour.
Most of your songs are steeped in tradition, old-time folk music, Appalachia and such but you also tackle current issues like Covid on ‘One Hard Rain’ and on the first album you had a go at Trump.
BE: Our music is, as you say, very much old style. Originally I’m from Tennessee and I lived in the Appalachian mountains in North Carolina and that’s where I cut my teeth on music playing banjo. I used to go to these old-time jams with these old timers and I was a long-haired hippie kid of 20 learning to play clawhammer banjo from them and they loved the idea of a younger generation picking up on the tradition. I really gravitated to that simple style, I mean I’m not what you would call a proficient player, I’ve never had a formal lesson in my life but playing folk music which can be both simple and complicated with the storytelling mixed in with the playing is what I really enjoy. But we do look at modern life and we did give it to Trump for sure but with topical songs it’s kind of everyone loves them at the time but then when Trump is kicked out of office I mean I don’t want to hear his name anymore. If he gets re elected then God help us. But Sarah also comes from that same folk tradition.
SF: I grew up in the midwest in Indiana and I was in a band in college which started my interest in folk music. We sang songs from around the world but I started to get more interested in hearing banjos and fiddles and such and eventually started playing in bands like my first one with Bard several years ago.
Aside from bass and singing do you play any other instruments on stage Sarah?
SF: I also play guitar but not as well as the guys. I started off as a guitar player but picked up the bass out of necessity when a band I was in needed a bass player. I love playing bass, I like kind of being in the background, adding harmonies and occasionally singing lead.
Who does most of the talking on stage?
BE: I definitely run my mouth a lot but so does Boris. We’ve created what I think is a pretty interesting stage presence to try and up the entertainment value. The music that I write, I try not to be too cryptic but to me the stories behind the songs are just as important as the songs so I like to give people some background on what they are about to hear and Boris does a great job of that as well. The hardest part is to not run our mouths too long, it’s bad when we take longer to talk about the song than when we actually play it.
SF: Let’s be honest here, Bard has such a great stage presence and I think people would be happy to just sit and listen to him tell stories all night. Boris does tell his stories but he’s a little more introverted and it’s Bard who brings the humour out.
BE: When I go to a show I love to hear people talk about the songs, to learn more about an artist and what they’re like and what influences them. And trying to inject some humour, well it just eases the tension for me, that’s for sure.
On a side note Bard, can I ask you about your solo album, ‘Two Days In Terlingua’? I was particularly intrigued by its setting.
BE: Terlingua is a really cool place in south Texas. Although around 50 folk still live there it is like a ghost town, there was a mercury mine but that shut down and everyone left. There’s a 200 year old church there and Bill Palmer who I work with a lot told me about it and said we should record there. So five of us went down there, there was no power, we had to run an extension cord into the church and we sat in it for two days recording live, no headphones, no distractions like having to pick up your kids from school. It was a great experience and I loved it.
That’s such a great back story to the album and one of the things which I think resonates with us in the UK is that, for my generation, we learned about America through John Wayne movies and to hear about a place like Terlingua and to see and hear musicians singing about the southwest brings out the inner cowboy in us.
BE: That’s great, that’s what we’re trying to do. It goes back to what we were saying earlier. New Mexico and the surrounding states are so unique and we want to share that experience when we play. I love it when I hear musicians from around the world play for us and tell us about their homeland and their experiences. And that’s what’s exciting about going to Europe and the UK, all the songs and tunes I started off playing came from over there, it’s the motherland of our folk music, the tunes coming over with the settlers and immigrants. In North Carolina the tunes are all go back to your homeland, your country and it’s really like a full circle, we’re hoping when we’re over there to do a couple of tunes in the setlist to reflect this.
Finally, given your love of old time folk and country are you familiar with the ‘Harry Smith Anthology of American Folk Music’?
BE: We all listen to that a lot. Boris is way into that collection and him and I, we hang about in trees, pruning them and talking about Harry Smith. The anthology was a big influence on our first album, we were playing it all the time and some of the feel and some of the sounds just filtered into ‘Workin’ and Dreamin”.
2023 Tour Dates:
Thurs June 15: Fishery Wharf Café, Boxmoor, Hemel Hempstead
Fri June 16: Green Note, Camden, London
Sat June 17: Square & Compass, Worth Matravers
Sun June 18: Whitstable Sessions, Kent
Tues June 20: Performing Arts Centre, Kilbarchan
Wed June 21: The Glad Café, Glasgow
Thurs June 22: Eastgate Theatre, Peebles
Fri June 23: The Tin Hut, Gartly
Sat June 24: Jumpin’ Hot Club @ The Globe, Newcastle Upon Tyne
Sun June 25: Live Room @ Caroline Street Club, Saltaire
Thur June 29: Reeth Memorial Hall, North Yorkshire
Fri June 30: Gate To Southwell Festival, Notts
Sat July 1 (lunchtime): Gate To Southwell Festival, Notts
Sat July 1 (evening): Maverick Festival, Suffolk
Sun July 2 (am): Maverick Festival, Suffolk