written by Kaydee Mulvahill and Adrian Marmelejo
The Steel City Jug Slammers might be the hardest working band I’ve met so far in Birmingham. They have been on tour for months, covering lots of ground from Alabama to Canada. They’ve also just completed recording their third full-length album, Hot Butter, which is set to release October 31. Adrian Marmolejo and I sat down with Ramblin’ Ricky Tate, Washtub Jay, G.W. Henderson, and Anthony Sutton over a beer at Brennen’s to talk about touring, the album, and what’s next for The Steel City Jug Slammers.
Curious as to what constitutes a jug band, we asked the guys to give us some insight into their genre. Ramblin’ Ricky Tate explained that during the 1920s and 1930s, bands were playing the popular music of the time. Because of financial limitations, most of the groups featured homemade instruments and, of course, a jug. The Steel City Jug Slammers pay homepage to this tradition, while also adding what they call “a little spice.” Their ensemble includes electric guitar and pedal steel. Anthony Sutton, who plays the pedal steel for the band, explained that because of these additions, The Steel City Jug Slammers were added to the jug band hall of fame and were recognized specifically for “expanding the genre.” According to Anthony, “The definition of jug band music is more than just acoustic folk.”
Heading into the studio, the Slammers said that their primary goal was to record the songs in the old way using magnetic tape. However, the use of modern recording technology gives the recordings a warm, traditional, but clearer sound. They could not have picked a better studio to record this album. Dial Back Sound has hosted legends such as R.L. Burnside and T Model Ford. The guys described their experience of recording this album at Dial Back as “magical,” and proclaimed that the vibes there were palpable. The icing on the cake is the addition of Grammy award winner Jimbo Mathus of the Squirrel Nut Zippers on piano.
The Slammers aren’t letting this release slow them down any. They have already begun writing for the next album and are gearing up to be back on the road in the spring. Go listen to Hot Butter at their Bandcamp, and follow them on Facebook to learn more about the band’s shows.