Blind Corn Liquor Pickers
Gig Seeker Pro

Blind Corn Liquor Pickers

Lexington, Kentucky, United States | INDIE

Lexington, Kentucky, United States | INDIE
Band Alternative Bluegrass


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos




A friend tells me that 50 years ago there was a joke that went like this:

"Why doesn't Elvis the Pelvis want to go into the Army?" The answer: "Because his twin brother Enis is going to take his job while he's gone."

I'm old enough to remember when Elvis was drafted into the Army, but I was young enough not to have gotten the joke if someone had told it to me, and nobody did. But having heard it now, I know the genesis of the charmingly off-the-wall "Little Enis" on the Blind Corn Liquor Pickers' new (and second) recording. (BCLP are based in Nashville now, moved from their native Lexington, Kentucky.) Performed, of course, as a rockabilly tune -- an acoustic one, propelled by Todd Anderson's bass-slapping and Elvis-accented vocal -- it has Little Enis "rockin' down at the Zebra Lounge ... His head like a housecat, ribs like a hungry hound dog. ... Hell, the man gets laid where another couldn't get a drink." If you lack a sense of humor and/or are dead, you won't like this. If you laugh and breathe, you will thank the music gods, or at least BCLP, for conjuring a wonderful new song out of a dumb old joke.

Nothing else on the album is quite this outre, but nothing fails to entertain, either. BCLP are basically a bluegrass outfit, and every one of the four members has his bluegrass chops down and is at home and ease in the genre. Maybe that's why the approach works so well; if they didn't have the basics in their grasp, they couldn't go beyond them in their surprising lyrics and genially off-center philosophy. Call them bluegrass postmodernists if you must. Jokey, ironic, swept up in explorations of sometimes preposterous fears, insecurities and fancies, they offer up familiar themes and then jerk them sharply leftward. When you've recovered from the shock -- if you haven't already been tossed out the window -- you're positioned to enjoy the rest of the ride.

BCLP never lapse into hipper-than-thou smugness; in fact, the jokes are always on them. And it is probably safe to say that no other bluegrass band ever wrote and recorded a song titled "Europe on $15 a Day" or covered a Talking Heads tune ("Once in a Lifetime").

Of course, they can do it straight if they want to. The CD opens with a blistering, old-timey-flavored ballad about the execution of a real-life criminal, "Bad Tom Smith," both the man's and the song's name. Smith met his end -- at the wrong end of a rope -- in eastern Kentucky in 1895. If he were committing comparable crimes today, we would label him a serial killer. No jokes here, that's for sure. And as good as anything Bruce Springsteen could have written if he wrote bluegrass, "8 Ball" evokes a teenager's lonely, desperate pool-hall dreams. No jokes there, either. While usually managing to undercut just about any expectation the listener brings to them, the songs -- all but one composed by band members -- always succeed not just as ambitious ideas but, more important, as vital, realized performances.

A particular pleasure is "Hi-Ball on a Roll-by," a train song, yet more than that. In this one, whose story you'll miss if you aren't listening carefully, a commuter on an L train imagines himself inside one of those venerable traditional songs where an express is passing high in the mountains with "smokestack shootin' coal dust to the sky ... bound south for Johnson City." I've never been to Johnson City (in east Tennessee) in person, but every time I hear an Appalachian song and fall under its spell, I feel myself in the vicinity. The superficial ironic humor notwithstanding, "Hi-Ball" celebrates a truth known to all who have opened our hearts to those old mountain anthems, which always seem so much larger than their own selves. And us, too.

- Jerome Clark

"Albany Times-Union"

Roaring out of Lexington, Ky, this acoustic quartet churns out a high-octane, rough-riding, irreverent brand of bluegrass on their sophomore album.

From the gospelesque breakdown of "River of Blazing Bourbon" to the wild 'n' wooly tale of "Europe on $15 a Day," guitarist Tom Fassas, mandolinist Joel Serdenis, bassist Todd Anderson and banjo man Travis Young have carved out a robust, fun-loving niche that injects plenty of personality into their sound. Even their five-string-fueled interpretation of the Talking Heads' "Once in a Lifetime" transcends mere novelty.

These guys may break a lot of the traditional bluegrass rules, but they can still pick like the dickens. - Greg Haymes

"No Depression"

Blind Corn Liquor Pickers
The Other Kind of Jug Band

Though the Blind Corn Liquor Pickers - four Kentucky natives who play mandolin, guitar, banjo, and upright bass - fleetingly give the appearance of a traditional bluegrass band, the illusion is shattered as soon as they launch into the Talking Heads "Once In A Lifetime". If the name didn't do the trick.

The rough-hewn quartet's loose, unorthodox playing style, verbose, offbeat narratives and occasional rockabilly-esque detours attest to the fact that the band members were not attuned to bluegrass - not even its progressive strain -during their formative years. The issue of pedigree is candidly addressed in the blithe, good-natured jab "Field Cred" (on last year's debut). A staple of the Liquor Pickers' live performances and recordings, "Field Cred" admits to decidedly suburban affinities.

"We weren't four guys that grew up attending bluegrass festivals," explains banjo player Travis Young. "I don't think any of us came out of that background, and that's probably why we can't pull it off to the degree that the old-timers approve."

Though the band is a half decade into its existence, it took a couple of years before Young, Tom Fassas (guitar, vocals), mandolin player Joel Serdenis and Legendary Shack Shakers co-founder Todd Anderson (bass, vocals), cemented their current lineup, and yet another before they began writing their own material. Their self-recorded, self-titled debut caught them midway through the process of weaning themselves off an all-covers repertoire (including, inevitably, Roger Miller's "Chug-A-Lug", while their new, Bil Vorndick-produced Anywhere Else?, is comprised entirely of originals. Except for that Talking Heads number.

The Liquor Pickers have mined their home state's colorful history for lyrical inspiration, yielding such songs as "Little Enis", the ribald tale of a strategically named real-life Elvis impersonator ("If Elvis was the Pelvis") and "River Of Blazing Bourbon", which imagines quirky, small-town characters coping with a sweeping bourbon flood.

"There was a warehouse distillery fire", Young offers. "When lightning struck, the whiskey was set on fire and it did roll down the hill. I drove past, and it looked like a big snaking river of bourbon. Of course, it never made it to town or anything, but the world actually lost two percent of its bourbon that day."

Despite the quartet's penchant for jocularity, as also evidenced by the dispensing of moonshine at shows deemed "jug-worthy", being pegged as a novelty act is not a goal. "One thing we don't want to be is a band that makes all of its statements through comedy", Young says. "I think we have a lot of things we want to say about life in Kentucky, bluegrass music and life in America in general. It's taken a little but more of a serious turn; some of the newer songs are a bit darker."

At present, the band is still a weekend-only venture, with all four members wedged between the allure of touring beyond the immediate southeast and the reality of mortgages and mouths to feed. "That part of it is not very rock and roll", Young says. Even so, the venues are improving.

"We played some ridiculously grim gigs", Young recalls. "I remember one at a VFW in Irvin, Kentucky, where some guy was screaming at us, because he wanted to hear something on the jukebox, and we were interfering."

Spirited and irreverent, the Liquor Pickers make more than a passing attempt to live up to their moniker, which itself is another vignette culled from Kentucky lore.

"The way you'd test good shine was to take your batch behind the barn and pass it around amongst yourselves; in our case, the four of us," Young says. "Over the course of trying out the shine, one of the four members would get up and leave. If the other three couldn't figure out who it was that got up and left, then you'd know you had the good stuff."
- Jewly Hight

"Country Standard Time"

Bluegrass purists may blanche at the mere utterance of this group's colorful moniker, but the energy and enthusiasm evident on this, their second album, ought to win over anyone brave enough to ignore the name and listen to the music.
Led by former Legendary Shack Shakers member Todd Anderson, the Pickers lean well into an acoustic rockabilly blend on several songs here, including, "Little Enis," which references the pelvis of Elvis for additional rockabilly dancefloor credibility.
Most of the album continues in an uptempo, old time music pace, with lightning-fast picking and lots of stereotypical lyrics about farm life, drinking and general hell-raising from "Puttin' Up Hay" to, "River Of Blazing Bourbon." The most hair-raising track, however, is a nearly note-perfect twanged-up version of Talking Heads' "In A Lifetime." If David Byrne had done it this way in the "Stop Making Sense" concert film, he probably would have been wearing a giant pair of overalls instead of that oversized suit. - Kevin Oliver

"Mick's Picks"

The Blind Corn Liquor Pickers
If its down home, shit kicking fast picking that you like then The Blind Corn Liquor Pickers should whet your appetite (or maybe I should say quench your thirst). Since forming in 2002, this quartet has played plenty of bars, clubs and festivals in the Kentucky area. Their self-titled debut album is a spirited effort that finds them taking traditional picking and mixing it up with an energetic jam-grass sensibility that’s steeped in a good-time vibe. They not only play remarkably well but they’ve got some great original songs such as “Field Cred” “Europe on 15 Bucks a Day” and “Post Office Blues.” They also offer a nod to traditional sounds with covers of “Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down” and “Sittin’ On Top of the World.” In essence, what these guys deliver is contemporary bluegrass music that’s should delight traditionalist and fans of more adventurous jam-grass bands. It’s honest, fun and foot stomping! For information check out (opens in a new window).

- KyndMusic

"Performing Songwriter"

The Blind Corn Liquor Pickers play what can only be called rowdy, party-time bluegrass-rock. Banjos, mandolins and high, lonesome harmonies collide with rock beats and stories about bailing hay and horses ?gbeat to hell and back.?h
In ?gBad Tom Smith?h the Nashville-based group sings of bringing a killer to justice and inviting all the surrounding counties to watch the execution. ?gHi-Ball on a Roll-By?h combines fast and furious guitar picking with three-part harmonies and lyrics about a train with a ?gsmokestack shootin?f coal dust to the sky.?h Our personal favorite is the tune ?gEurope on $15 a Day,?h detailing the story of a boy from West Kentucky traveling in his truck to nearby towns with European names. Glasgow, Athens and London are all on his itinerary, with wild and wacky adventures along the way. We haven?ft checked his geography, but either way it makes for a heck of a ride.
- Top 12 DIY Picks: June 2006 - Mare Wakefield

"Band to Watch"

JULY, 2005

The Blind Corn Liquor Pickers have a foolproof method for differentiating between various grades of corn liquor. “The four of us will take a jug of moonshine to the back of the barn and drink it down,” mandolinist Joel Serdenis explains as his band mates shout encouragingly. “One of us will get up and leave. If the other three can’t figure out who got up and left . . . then we know we got the good stuff.”

That colorful piece of Kentucky folklore has given rise not only to one of the band’s most clamored for tunes, “Round Back of the Barn” (from the group’s self-titled debut), but the quartet’s name as well. “We walk a fine line between having a good laugh about all that’s interesting and quirky about Kentucky and stepping on the culture,” banjoist Travis Young elaborates. “Although thick accents and shoeless hillbillies exist to some degree, there’s a lot of honor and integrity among the people of the mountains, so we try to find a balance.”

Indeed, the bluegrass state’s idiosyncrasies and colorful characters are the focal point of much of the band’s wickedly clever and strikingly adventuresome original material. “Europe on 15 Bucks a Day” satirically observes that in a state sporting such towns as London, Glasgow, Frankfurt, Athens and Versailles, one “could travel most of Europe without crossing the state line.” The fun is found in the differences between each Kentucky town and its European counterpart, especially in the way the names are sometimes pronounced. “Turning Versailles into Vur-sales is understandable to a certain extent,” Travis sheepishly admits, “but turning Athens into Ay-thins just defies all explanation.”

Most of the lyrics are initially crafted by Travis on his computer. He then sends them to Joel who helps fine tune the words and writes the melody. “Then we bring it to practice and see how we can change it and how much weird stuff we can add in,” bassist Todd Anderson laughs.

Another crowd favorite is “The Ballad of Cornbread Moses,” a song that celebrates one of the band’s biggest fans, clogger extraordinaire and self described “last of the [out]house kids.” “He was the last one in Estill County to clean out outhouses before the modern conveniences came,” guitarist Tom Fassas explains. “He’ll come to our shows and start dancing and really getting the crowd going. After awhile we didn’t know if they were coming out to see us or see him.”

“It kind of snowballs,” Travis says shaking his head in wonder. “You write a song [about Cornbread] or a strange Lexington character like a guy who dug graves during the cholera epidemic in the 1800’s and the next thing you know, somebody says you’ve got to write a tune about a guy named Little Enis who used to play rockabilly in local bars. The stories come from people around us and also through our own experiences.”

While everyone in the band is a native Kentuckian, those “experiences” are more often than not from the city than from down on the farm. “We have a song called ‘Field Cred,’” Travis interjects, “that deals with the humor of being Kentucky city boys trying to write bluegrass songs and not really knowing anything about the great themes:”

Ain’t got the country credibility to pen a bluegrass song
Dad’s in sales and mom’s a new age freak
Instead of cornbread and beans, they fed me on Papa John’s Supremes
Ain’t got no field cred, I’m a bluegrass wannabe

At times, the boys still feel like bluegrass wannabes as they find the traditionally ruled bluegrass world rough sledding—not a surprising turn of events given the band’s sometimes rowdy genre-jumping sound which is kind of a cross between the Austin Lounge Lizards, the Bad Livers, the Yonder Mountain String Band and Bill Monroe. “Sometimes, it’s an uphill struggle getting gigs,” Tom says with a look of disappointment. “We had one festival promoter tell us no, just based on our name.”

“One of the big things that will win over some traditionalists is just seeing a band have so much fun on stage,” Joel comments. “I think it’s hard to throw a curmudgeonly attitude up against somebody who is having such a great time. We want the audience to think ‘if they’re having that much fun [on stage] and they’re at work, then we should be having a great time out here.’”

“We just get out there and tear into it and do our thing,” Todd adds enthusiastically. “We’ve been told we’re not in the right place for what we’re doing, but we’ve got to do it anyway.”
- Bluegrass Now!

"Ear Candy Magazine"

The Blind Corn Liquor Pickers deliver an authentic bluegrass sound and these guys are at the top of their game. One song delivers an authentic Sun sounding rockabilly tune, which sounds like the Stray Cats with an infusion of bluegrass. Plus, there is a great surprise to be found with their bluegrass version of the Talking Heads’ “Once In a Lifetime”, very cool! As long as there are superb artists like these guys, the bluegrass genre will always be alive cause this is the real deal. The Blind Corn Liquor Pickers deliver one hellacious hootenanny!

4 Stars - Scott H. Platt

"Whisperin & Hollerin"

Bluegrass, eh? Yup. From Kentucky. It?fs fresh, it's new and it's as authentic as these things ever can be.

The BLIND CORN LIQUOR PICKERS do an unforgettable bluegrass version of TALKING HEADS' "Once In Lifetime" It isn't a joke at all. It?fs a great version of a singular song. Eleven other rattling tunes of their own stay closer to the traditions of Kentucky and Tennessee. They keep the driving banjo, guitar, bass and four-voice tautness of the best country music and the songs are well worth singing and hearing. Joel Serdenis's Mandolin rings true and extra vocals and jug bass lines finish it all off with style. Producer Bil VornDick has done a fine job of making himself invisible while setting the songs up on their hind legs for all to admire.

The songs are packed so tight you couldn?ft get a half a bar free to sip your beer in. Even the mournful finale of "8-Ball" wastes not a single bit of forward energy in carrying the tune and lyric from the beginning to the end. It's the kind of song Johnny Cash could have sung. It?fs music that sounds like it?fs been distilled and purified though three generations at least. Confident, effortless and irresistible, you would have to have a heart of coal and dancing shoes of lead not to fall in love with this stuff.

"Little Enis" is a classic rockabilly tune with a pre-Haley band-shout chorus. The bass solo is a treat. "Eyes of Dawn" has a jazzy blues feel. The traditional bluegrass format doesn?ft stop the band from stretching the limits and the novel elements refresh the whole thing nicely. As well as Joel's shimmering flatback mandolin playing, Todd Anderson's bass, Travis Young's banjo and Tom Fass's guitar are top-of-the-range craftsman-played instruments. They are deft, inventive and they never show off or pretend. They can damn well play and it sounds like they do their practice.

"I may not be a genius but there's one thing in life that I know: I keep my nose to the grindstone"

This is what they sing and it ain't no lie. It's a lovely record.

- Sam Saunders

"Bluegrass Unlimited"

This is an interesting project of mostly original material by a quartet of excellent musicians from Kentucky. All the songs are written by members of the band with the exception of a cover of Talking Head's "Once In A Lifetime." The group's songs are primarily about working, drinking, and little bit of hell-raising with all of the members contributing to the writing and arranging.

The band is mandolinist Joel Serdenis, bassist Todd Anderson, banjo player Travis Young, and guitarist Tom Fassas. Their song structure is a bit wordy and given a goodoldboy delivery. And as most of their songs are fast, it is sometimes hard to catch the story. Instrumentally, these guys can pick, and bassist Todd Anderson provides a fourth lead instrument with his runs and slaps. A couple highlights include the story of "Bad Tom Smith" about a hired gun and how he came to his demise, and "River Of Blazing Bourbon" about a little accident at the distillery. All in all it looks like this group is having fun. (Blind Corn Music, P.O. Box 150391, Nashville, TN 37215, - On The Edge

"Bluegrass Unlimited"

This is an interesting project of mostly original material by a quartet of excellent musicians from Kentucky. All the songs are written by members of the band with the exception of a cover of Talking Head's "Once In A Lifetime." The group's songs are primarily about working, drinking, and little bit of hell-raising with all of the members contributing to the writing and arranging.

The band is mandolinist Joel Serdenis, bassist Todd Anderson, banjo player Travis Young, and guitarist Tom Fassas. Their song structure is a bit wordy and given a goodoldboy delivery. And as most of their songs are fast, it is sometimes hard to catch the story. Instrumentally, these guys can pick, and bassist Todd Anderson provides a fourth lead instrument with his runs and slaps. A couple highlights include the story of "Bad Tom Smith" about a hired gun and how he came to his demise, and "River Of Blazing Bourbon" about a little accident at the distillery. All in all it looks like this group is having fun. (Blind Corn Music, P.O. Box 150391, Nashville, TN 37215, - On The Edge


Myths & Routines (2012)
Appalachian Trail (2008)
Anywhere Else? (2005)
Blind Corn Liquor Pickers (2004)



Raised on rock-and-roll and trained in Kentucky bluegrass, the Blind Corn Liquor Pickers have been living on the ragged edge of the genre for over a decade now, playing what one critic has dubbed "revisionist bluegrass". On Myths & Routines, their fourth album, electric guitar and drums are added to the bluegrass-y mix, pulling the sound even further from the traditional shore. It's the songwriting, though, that continues makes this band stand apart.
The themes are more personal than on previous efforts where humorous genre send-ups, fiery political anthems or foot-stomping moonshine-drenched party songs carried the day. On Myths & Routines, The Blind Corn Liquor Pickers find themselves in a bit of a midlife crisis. The song cycle breaks with mood-pieces on heartache and stagnancy and resolves by its end to a rollicking treatise on living life in the moment, all of which the listener can feel in the soaring, emotive lead vocals of Beth Walker and the densely arranged, high-octane musical performance of the band.
Recorded at Shangri-la Studios in Lexington, KY under the guiding hand of engineer Duane Lundy (Ben Sollee, Jim James, Vandaveer, These United States), Myths & Routines is the newest revision for this revisionist bluegrass band, one that may end up meeting the folk-leaning indie rock world somewhere in the middle.