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Haymakers Celebrate Folk Music’s Many Streams

Courtesy photo

Dustin Arbuckle and Tom Page formed the band Haymakers in 2012 and almost from the start they've wanted to make a record. But it's only now that the group, rounded out by Ted Farha, Mark Foley and Dennis Hardin, has gotten around to releasing an album.

Tom Page points out that the recording process itself has been ongoing.

“For at least 10 to 12 years Dustin has made a Christmas record for his family,” he says. “We’ve come together and had some recording sessions just dedicated to that. So, I think one of the tracks on the CD goes back a few years to one of the Christmas things. One of the tracks from this last year’s Christmas record was one of the final ones we put together for it. So, it’s been a while. We’ve known that we needed to do it and we’ve been trying to hustle to get it into a finished form.”

The new Haymakers release features a handful of traditional and cover songs as well as some originals, including “Spent the Rent.” The title and outline of the song’s lyrical themes were a gift of sorts from Arbuckle’s friend, Michael Carmody.

“As soon as he started telling me about it, I got all of these ideas,” Arbuckle says. "I said, ‘Do you mind if I do something with that?’ He said, ‘Sure. Just give me 10 percent.’ It was cool because we didn’t really have anything else like that at the time.”

Page adds, “And it took us in a good direction of swingier groove.”

Even traditional material, such as "Deep Ellum Blues" and "I Know You Rider," have more than a little Haymakers' touch on them. Arbuckle points to the former track as an example of how the group approaches traditional pieces.

“That represents something we’re prone to doing, which is taking these traditional tunes which came down to Tom through the Grateful Dead and I learned from playing them with Tom, finding our own way of doing them," he says. "In the case of these couple of songs, we wrote our own couple of verses to them, which I think is great because that’s how folk music works. These songs are part of this oral tradition and you can continue to add your own flavor to them and your own stamp on these songs that are 70, 80, 100 years old.”

Though some will refer to Haymakers as a bluegrass band, its sound and influences are more complex than that. Dennis Hardin and Ted Farha have played in bluegrass bands before but bassist Mark Foley comes from a background that draws on classical and jazz. Arbuckle says that he even he and Page weren't strict folk enthusiasts.

“Most of my musical background, before I started playing with Tom was in traditional blues. Tom has very, very wide ranging tastes and has been in everything from stoner rock bands to this group. Ted and Dennis come out of more of a bluegrass vibe,” Arbuckle says. “And Mark with the classical music background and all the jazz stuff. Mark was excited to be in this band because he got to explore singing more harmony.”

Page adds that one of the best parts of being in Haymakers is the dedication everyone in the band exhibits.

“Something that is a real great thing about this band, that was commented on by a guy that rents rooms at my place, was just that he said, ‘Every time you guys rehearse everybody’s on time and they’re tuning immediately. Within five minutes the instruments are out, you’re tuning and you’re happy to be together.’ I thought, ‘You know? You’re really right.’ It’s a gift that we have where everybody involved is at least equally enthusiastic,” Page says.

Haymakers celebrate the release of their new CD tonight at the Shamrock Lounge.

Jedd Beaudoin is host/producer of the nationally syndicated program Strange Currency. He has also served as an arts reporter, a producer of A Musical Life and a founding member of the KMUW Movie Club. As a music journalist, his work has appeared in Pop Matters, Vox, No Depression and Keyboard Magazine.