For a septet fuelled by ten gallons of luck, ripping down the road for Sumas, it is only obvious that this unruly outfit was born as Run GMC – but it’s been a lot of tins killed and banjos abused since those days. The Washboard Union are not types typically bounded by living rooms, especially since last summer, when they unleashed their music nominally contained by the word bluegrass on stages such as Rifflandia and Live at Squamish. Someone once, with a penchant to define the hard to box, ventured this Union as a smashup of three souped-up musical stockcars, Old Crow Medicine Show, Steve Earle and Drive-By Truckers.
The mythmakers themselves bill their union as the country’s only “seven-piece outlaw bluegrass band.” It is a statement that likely does not need factchecking. Bluegrass might be the roots but what grows is what comes, and it looks not unlike crabgrass, some sightings have suggested. “We’re not purists,” says Dunner, the man who by day is Chris Duncombe, the overseer of the output of 99.3 The Fox. The Union’s melodic moonshine ensnared the ear of Garth Richardson, that heralded knob-twiddler behind work with the likes of Rage Against The Machine and Red Hot Chili Peppers, and it was enough to turn Richardson country, at least this one time. The result – The Washboard Union’s eponymous debut – entered the world last summer, the wielding of a strange brew of weapons: washboard, string bass, lap steel guitar, fiddle, mandolin, banjo, harp, dojo (bastard child of the banjo and dobro guitar), drums – and four singers. This ain’t Sloan, one can be assured.www.thewashboardunion.com