Meet the Meat Purveyors

They’re talented, they’re edgy, they do alt-country-bluegrass and they do it well. They are the Austin-based Meat Purveyors and on Monday night they were at Inglewood’s Ironwood Stage and Grill for their first Calgary gig.

With double bassist Cherilyn diMond, front woman Jo Walston, guitarist Bill Anderson and mandolin-tickler Pete Stiles, this band pushes the boundaries of conventional bluegrass. In fact, they play bluegrass so hip and spunky it’s been described as "punkgrass".

"When you tell people we play bluegrass, they want to send us to a daytime Christian folk festival," says Stiles. "That’s not really where we fit in so much".

"They would kick us out because we would be drinking–a lot," agrees Walston.

"And probably swearing," adds diMond.

Hailing from Texas, the Meat Purveyors have been around since 1996. Signing with Bloodshot Records in 1997, they have been making nothing but sweet hectic harmony ever since–except, of course, during a break-up period after releasing their second album More Songs About Buildings and Cows, in 1999.

"We were going to tour England, it was well booked," says Anderson. "But then we broke up".

Reuniting a year and a half later, the Meat Purveyors released their aptly named third album, All Relationships are Doomed to Fail, last spring.

"We toured a whole lot last year, and then we haven’t toured this year until right now," says Anderson.

"This is our first international tour," informs Stiles, in reference to the band’s four dates in Vancouver, Edmonton, Victoria, and last Monday’s show at the Ironwood.

"Now we are an international touring sensation," laughs diMond.

Although this was said in jest, the Meat Purveyors rightly deserve the term "sensation." It doesn’t take an old-time country backer to appreciate what the Meat Purveyors have to offer. After all, how many of us are? All one has to be is a liker of kick-ass music to know that this band is the real deal.

Listening to the Meat Purveyors is an infectious good time, saturated with brilliant, crazy mandolin/guitar playing; raw, gorgeous vocal harmonies, and lyrics so witty and hillbilly-sassy you’d stop and stare if your ears had eyes ("When I’m not drinkin’/I’m thinkin’ ’bout drinkin’/When I’m not thinkin’/I’m drinkin’ ’bout you").

Another testament to the Meat Purveyors brilliance is their notorious ability to wildly bluegrassisize very non-bluegrass songs. All Relationships are Doomed to Fail features smartly pulled-off covers of ABBA’s "S.O.S.," and the 80’s heavy metal hit "Round Round" by Ratt. They also do a gorgeous ballad-formed version of Elvis Presley’s "Burning Love," which can be found on the band’s first album Sweet in the Pants.

"There isn’t a genre that we wouldn’t touch," says Stiles. "Except for over-covered songs, we wouldn’t cover a song that’s already covered. We can give any song a Meat Purveyors treatment, if need be."

"Autobahn by Kraftwerk should be our next direction," jokes Anderson.

"Yes, vintage German electronica is definitely our next direction," confirms Walston with a straight face.

"I’ll use my mandolin to imitate the sound of a factory," ends Stiles.

Fun, talented and original, hopefully the next few years will see encore performances for the Meat Purveyors in Calgary, barring another break-up.

"The band will break up when one of us dies," says Anderson with a shrug. "But that could be any minute."

"Yeah, that could be tomorrow," laughs diMond. "It doesn’t seem that possible to get out of this band. You’re jumped in, you’re stripped of all self-worth and dignity, then you can’t leave".

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