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Barking All the Time

The Hill Country Hounds Talk Roots



A different kind of sound is building a following in the New Orleans music scene. The Hill Country Hounds blend the rhythms of the Crescent City and the Appalachian region of West Virginia in a style they call, “Louisianamericana.” The New Orleans-based band combines the “Boom-Chicka-Boom” rhythm akin to Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Three with the ruggedness of rock n’ roll and the beat of New Orleans blues.

 

Drummer Jason Brettel formed the band around five years ago. He had already played for years with guitarist Larry Hall, and when the duo hooked up with guitarist Jaime Bernstein and bassist Miguel Barrosse, the core four members were established. At first they played “Tex Mex” songs, but their style evolved into the mix of country, blues, and rock you hear from them today.

 

The Hounds have a fondness for authentic country music, which is evident both in their lyrics and their instrumentation—along with drums, bass, and guitar, you will hear harmonica, fiddle, and peddle-steel.

 

“It’s real roots music,” explained Barrosse.

 

But, roots music does not mean that the Hounds are not influenced by NOLA’s funk and brass roots. Barrosse is a New Orleans native who began playing music in the fourth grade, when he picked up trumpet—an instrument he stuck with through high school. He then switched to guitar, and eventually, moved on to bass. Over the past ten years he has guitar-teched for such New Orleans legends as George Porter Jr. and Leo Nocentelli. He also served as sound man and guitar tech for Dumpstaphunk.

 

“George Porter taught me a lot about being in a band and touring, as well as influencing my music,” Barrosse said. He also mentioned the huge influence Dumpstaphunk’s Tony Hall and Nick Daniels had on his bass playing, concluding, “I owe those guys a lot.”

 

Jamie Bernstein, who writes many of the band’s lyrics, hails from the Appalachian Mountain area of West Virginia. Barrosse explained that Bernstein’s roots, and the stories that stem from the mountain music tradition, form many of the band’s original music, especially in their lyrics. “Rhythmically its got more of a back beat to it,” he said, referring to that New Orleans touch.

 

The Hill Country Hounds released their self-titled debut album in 2014. The first song on the album—Cash Thing—pays tribute to the “Man in Black,” while also condemning the country music business’s current kinship with the pop genre. Bernstein opines in a deep, rustic howl, “But Nashville don’t like no story tellers no more,” and, “It’s all about Taylor Swift; she’s shakin’ that same old riff. Ain’t nobody in Nashville doing that Johnny Cash thing.”

 

The band is planning more studio work in the future. They intend to release some 45’s (that’s vinyl to you younger folks) over the next couple years.

 

In the past, the Hill Country Hounds have played regular gigs at the Old Point Bar and the Maple Leaf. “We kind of got started in those two places,” said the bassist.

 

This Saturday, January 9th, the Hounds play Black Label Icehouse (3000 Dryades Street), headlining the Texas-style BBQ spot’s Half Ass Boucherie: A Whole Hog Dinner to Benefit Hogs for the Cause. Black Label Icehouse owner and Pitmaster Damian Brugger will be smoking a whole hog, a warmup for the April competition where Pitmasters go hog to hog. This pig won’t die in vain—every part will be used to not only tantalize your taste buds, but all money raised from the sale of the martyred swine will go to the Hogs for the Cause charity, which supports research for pediatric brain cancer.

 

“This is the first time we’re getting involved with Hogs for the Cause,” said Miguel Barrosse of the Hounds. “We’re really looking forward to being a part of it. On top of it being a good cause, it’s going to be a fun time for everybody, and we’re looking forward to doing many more in the future.”

 

The lineup for Saturday also features Dave Jordan and the NIA, and Chris Mule. After his set, Chris Mule will sit in with the Hounds as an honorary fifth member to close the night.

 

Other upcoming shows for the Hill Country Hounds include a monthly show at Banks Street Bar, and a performance at the Abita Springs Opry on March 19th.

 

For more information on the Hill Country Hounds visit their website at hchounds.com.

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Contributors

Renard Boissiere, Evan Z.E. Hammond, Naimonu James, Wilson Koewing, J.A. Lloyd, Nina Luckman, Dead Huey Long, Alexis Manrodt, Joseph Santiago, Andrew Smith, Cynthia Via, Austin Yde

Photographers


Art Director

Michael Weber, B.A.

Editor


Listings Editor

Linzi Falk

Editor Emeritus

Alexis Manrodt


B. E. Mintz


Stephen Babcock

Published Daily