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The South Austin Jug Band Performs in Wimberley: James Hyland, Will Dupuy, Willie Pipkin, Dennis Ludiker and Brian Beken in Coffeehouse Concert
Musicianship with unmistakable cheer arrives at Susanna's Kitchen Thursday, December 21, 2006.
Photo grabbed on a road trip. (© South Austin Jug Band)

Call the music of the South Austin Jug Band whatever you like: bluegrass or newgrass, neo-Jug, acoustic country-folk, Texas roots unplugged, swinging Lone Star beatnik country or anything else that strikes you. It defies easy pigeonholing with sprightly picking and fiddling through endless categories.

From south of Austin’s Colorado River, from hometowns littered across Texas and the United States, from a mesh of influences running through blues and country and newgrass comes the South Austin Jug Band, one the most fierce set of strings working together today. Innovative in their combination of genres and true to the traditions of their musical roots, the South Austin Jug Band has solidified itself in the world of acoustic music.

The unmistakable cheer the South Austin Jug Band brings to their music is clear. Musicianship, focused songwriting, and pristine instrumentals show their determination to keep improving and reaching out to more audiences. “It may sound obvious,” commented singer/guitarist James Hyland, “But it’s just more fun to play well-written songs.”

James Hyland fronts the South Austin Jug Band with his smoothly twanged tenor, and is joined by Will Dupuy on bass, Willie Pipkin on lead guitar, Dennis Ludiker on mandolin and fiddle and Brian Beken on fiddle in a style that is described by Tony Peyeser in the Santa Monica Mirror as “old-timey roots but deliver(s) the musical goods in a contemporary, loosey-goosey style."

South Austin Jug Band began in the Fall of 2000 when singer/guitarist James Hyland pulled together a few pickers for a once-off gig at Austin's legendary Broken Spoke. The piece-meal band had such a blast that they continued to jam out their favorite country tunes and bluegrass breakdowns on weekends. Within a year the boys decided to share their music with the rest of Texas.

From such humble beginnings, South Austin Jug Band has grown exponentially over the subsequent four years, garnering an enthusiastic fan base in the Midwest and West Coast and Northwest where they recently toured opening and backing up singer songwriter extraordinaire Todd Snider.

Based in the Live Music Capitol of the World, South Austin Jug Band's new fans reach all the way to Europe (following a successful summer 2005 tour) and were crowned Best New Band at the 2003 Telluride Bluegrass Festival and Best Bluegrass Band at the 2005 Austin Music Awards. They were hailed as a “rarity—popular with the 'Texas Uprising’ curved ball cap crowd, as well as the jam band groovers,” by Michael Corcoran in the Austin American Statesman. The band has kept up a prodigious touring schedule all the while, playing nearly 200 shows a year. “We’ve done a lot of our growing on stage,” Hyland explained.

Each song, each voice and solo and note is imbued with a committed passion that courses through their music. The ballads are bent on breaking our hearts, the instrumentals crackle with spitfire solos, and their newgrass numbers are stacked with vibrant, vigorous lines.

South Austin Jug Band members come from different musical backgrounds: Will Dupuy’s mother is a Grammy-nominated classical singer who performs regularly in the Dallas Opera, while fiddler Brian Beken was crowned Texas’ 2004 Flatpicking champion. James Hyland crooned up in North Carolina before heading south to study at the University of Texas. Dennis Ludiker was born into a family of Washington state fiddlers and was awarded first place at the prestigious Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield back in 2002. Guitarist Willie Pipkin was named for the iconic Willie Nelson. The band’s music was in their blood before they even knew it.

Varied musical tastes are also present. Lead guitarist Willie Pipkin is a blues man through and through. Hyland and Dupuy are influenced by Steve Earle and legendary Townes Van Zandt. Dennis Ludiker and Brian Beken are drawn to jazz and newgrass and anything else that’ll fuel their improvisatory fires. But in performance, the group’s commitment to creating music together leads to a coherent and cohesive sound. Together they’ve created a sound described by San Francisco's East Bay Express  as “a joyful noise that seems made of pure sunlight and moonshine.”

Though the band members themselves are young (with no one touching thirty yet), the South Austin Jug Band’s quick maturation in sound and dedication is startling, and considering how far they’ve come it’s exciting to think how much further they can go. “No one ever gets bored with anything, on stage or in the audience,” says Hyland. “And we can’t ask for much more than that.”

Catch them on the way up at Susanna's Kitchen. Susanna's Kitchen opens its doors at 7, music starts at 7:30 with two 45 minute sets and an intermission. Pie, coffee, tamales and outstanding music for only $10 per person.


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