YELLOW JACK Presents “HIGHWAY 62”
Follow up album to A Horse Apiece
There’s nobody playing on the local scene quite like Yellow Jack. They are not in any way the usual band you’d see at a bar in WNY, and they are about as Americana as you could get. I’ve seen them a few times recently, at the DHU Strand in North Tonawanda, at the Sportsmen’s Tavern and at the Eugene Debs Social Hall on the East Side, in sight of the old train station.
Songs about local history, the Erie Canal, the mighty Niagara, the War of 1812, labor songs, traditional folk songs, very lively bluegrass and much more is what you’ll hear, many of them original songs written by Dennis Reed Jr.
At the Strand, it was an album release party for their new album, “Highway 62.” The DHU Strand, by the way, is a cool little place for live performances where you can bring your own beverages and just pay for the music.
I thought Yellow Jack deserved a little more attention paid to their music. I already had their first album, “A Horse Apiece,” and enjoyed it. That’s a fine collection that opens with “Buffalo Gals,” tells some history tales (including “The Legend of Hannah Johnson,” a story about a former slave who settled in Tonawanda in the 1800s), and has some tasty traditional bluegrass throughout the album.
“Highway 62” opens with the title song, an ode to that well-known road that goes through Western New York from the Southern Tier to Niagara Falls, a highway that hosted both Grover Cleveland and Geronimo. There are eight very catchy, original songs, including ones about the only public hanging in Buffalo, lumber workers in Tonawanda and a mixed review of the Southern Tier, even referring to the “history buffs” who fly the rebel flag. In addition to the Yellow Jack regulars, guests on “Highway 62” are Chris Jones from the Skiffle Minstrels on banjo, Ryan Aitcheson on washboard and Grant Asklar on clarinet. You can stream their music, but your support goes a lot farther if you purchase a CD.
This is a band you have to experience live. You get the full array of all their music, including some not on the two albums. Their shows are a lot of fun with a great deal of energy, with blazing fiddle and breakneck bluegrass. A Yellow Jack set will likely include songs from the Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan, Avett Brothers, Old Crow Medicine Show, Woody Guthrie, the Carter Family, Pete Seeger and others, along with their own songs.
https://yellowjackmusic.com is where you can find out more information about the band and see some well-crafted videos, including “The Burning of the City,” about the War of 1812.
Yellow Jack will be part of the SAM Foundation’s Music @ the Library series of outside summer shows. They’ll appear at the downtown library’s main entrance on Thursday, August 25, from 5 to 6:30 p.m.; live music comes back to Lafayette Square! Check them out at the library or their other local performances and you’ll want to take their albums home with you.
Dennis Reed Jr – Guitar, banjolele, harmonica, vocals
Andrew Gianni – Mandolin, tenor banjo, vocals
Keith Glass – Bass, vocals
Lainie Reid – Fiddle, tenor banjo, vocals
Warren Namingha – Percussion
Mary Gauthier: Dark Enough to See the Stars
Hank Williams Jr. – Rich White Honky Blues
Peter Rowan – Calling You From My Mountain
Neil Young and Crazy Horse – Toast
S.G. Goodman – Teeth Marks
Drive-by Truckers: Welcome 2 Club XIII
Sheep Dogs – Outta Site
Charlie Musselwhite – Mississippi Son
Slocan Ramblers – Up the Hill and Through the Fog
Patty Griffin – Tape