He got a real purdy mouth, ain’t he?” —Toothless Redneck, Deliverance
Ah, sweet—or in Ned Beatty’s case, painful—irony. It colors our best and worst times; the moments when laughter reaches gut-clutching peaks or humiliation hits gut-wrenching valleys. Fortunately, Purdymouth WV’s genesis sprang from the former. Actually, everything the band does is rooted in laughter, with an appropriate dose of reverences.
Purdymouth WV (not West Virginia, incidentally, but they offer a string of possibilities, including “West Valley,” “Wyoming Vernacular” and “Wet …”) began in 2000 when ex-Little Woman/Boxcar Kid/Jackmormon Jim Bone had a notion: “I thought, wouldn’t it be funny to do classic rock and punk songs as bluegrass tunes?”
Pal Brendan Welsh (Boxcar Kids, Jr. High) thought it was a fine idea as well, and the two formed—amid fits of laughter—this band named for the dentally-challenged Deliverance hick’s portentous pick-up line. The lineup dissolved as soon as it formed, but Bone was right: It’s a hoot to hear Led Zeppelin’s “Over the Hills and Far Away” segue into Hank Garland’s “Sugarfoot Rag” or Earl Scruggs’ “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” on the ass end of Nazareth’s “Love Hurts.” In fact, it makes you wanna squeal like a (delighted) pig.
But what did he do after the band broke up, you ask? Well, he formed a new one. Purdymouth today consists of Bone on mandolin and vocals, guitarists Derrek Wright and Page McGinnis, bassist Scott Terry, 5-string banjo plucker Pat Terry and drummer Shaun Thomas.
Now, while hickin’ up the hits may not be entirely original (see Sam Bush in his Jeffro Beck persona, AC/DC tribute band Hayseed Dixie and CMH Records’ Pickin’ On series), who came first isn’t a worry. Purdymouth comes by its style honestly; Bone had no idea Hayseed Dixie or the Pickin’ On series existed when he commenced cookin’ up down-home versions of acid rock. Further, it sure ain’t shtick. “The whole concept is humorous,” says Pat Terry, “but it’s done with complete respect for the tunes.”
On their debut disc, Just Don’t Kiss Her (Purdymouth.com), the band seamlessly mixes originals with the covers, which include “Over the Hills,” Pink Floyd’s “Brain Damage,” The Byrds’ “Mr. Spaceman,” Drive-By Truckers’ “Zoloft,” Jerry Joseph’s “Breakfast at Lucille’s” and an old Boxcar Kids tune called “Watertower.” Regardless of the tune’s origin, in Purdymouth’s hands, ownership reverts to them, as each member is a virtuoso player and scene vet. You might know the Terry Brothers from such bands as I-Roots, Insatiable and Mambo Jumbo; Wright from Mighty Dave & Crescent City Thunder; Thomas from Sturgeon General, Gigi Love and Insatiable; and McGinnis from Sweet Loretta and his own jazz trio—none of them are content to churn out note-perfect replicas. You might say if you line up the Purdymouths’ local and national band and session credits, it’d stretch out longer than a Grateful Dead jam.
“We get a total kick out of it and so does the audience,” says Wright, explaining that the permutations Purdymouth puts a tune through create something of a wild ride. Bone recalls a show when the band tossed reggae beats into a Rush tune and laughter erupts. “It’s fun to see an audience recognize a tune then laugh when we [take it in a strange direction].”
Laughter, again. It’s omnipresent with Purdymouth, occurring in conversation, in song and in their live ruckus—and it goes both ways, as sweet little blue-haired old ladies, not recognizing the devil music wrapped in bib overalls, provide reciprocal yuks. Bone tells it, “They were swarming around the merchandise table at a gig in the downtown Farmer’s Market and we sold out of our CD—sold out!” At this, the band erupts in more laughter and Pat Terry quips, “They must have been thinking, ‘Oh, what nice boys, playing that old-time music.’”