.357 String Band Reissues Landmark Album “Fire & Hail”

October 18, 2012 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  18 Comments

In 2008, a fledgling Saving Country Music named its first “Album of the Year”. The award went to the blazing punk bluegrass band from Milwaukee, the .357 String Band, and their magnum opus Fire & Hail. Then on New Years Eve of 2010, Saving Country Music announced its “Top 10 Albums of the Decade” in all of country music, and Fire & Hail made it on that list too.

There is no harsher critic, nor more revealing force in music than time. Time reveals all warts and washes away any help from trends and current tastes. But here nearly four years later, no revisions need to be made, no clarifications are called for. Fire & Hail remains a preeminent, timeless release, and one of the most important ever in underground country, surpassed possibly only by Hank Williams III’s Straight to Hell.

.357 String Band put out 3 excellent albums before officially calling it quits in November of 2011. But Fire & Hail is where banjo player Joesph Huber revealed himself as a brilliant songwriter of marksman first-class caliber. It’s where mandolinist Jayke Orvis revealed his depth of composition, from penning one of the band’s signature songs “Raise The Moon” on their first album, to procuring the heart wrenching “Hold Me Tight” duet with underground country queen Rachel Brooke. It’s where guitar player Derek Dunn codified himself as the hub of the band, and where Rick Ness established himself as one of the most solid back beats wielding an upright bass.

And they were all the absolute best possible musicians you could find at their respective positions, each challenging each other, pushing each other to keep up with the band’s demands for artistic excellence in both instrumental technique and creative composition. Listening back now at Fire & Hail, with so much talent in one place, no wonder the project was untenable, and no wonder the respective players have moved on to become their own trees instead of respective branches of the same project.

Still, the loss of .357 String Band may go down as underground country’s greatest tragedy. I can think of no other project that was so ripe for becoming a success story of authentic American underground roots. They were brilliant, but accessible at the same time. Seeing the success these days of Mumford & Sons, The Avett Brothers, Trampled by Turtles, and Old Crow Medicine Show to name a few, it’s baffling how .357–a superior gaggle of talent–somehow missed the boat. It is a great sin of American music.

Luckily we still have the legacy of .357 String Band to reflect back on, and the respective work and side projects of the individual players–including Billy Cook who filled in for Jayke Orvis in later years–to see us through a period that feels mired and creatively discounted without the muse, and the challenge to inferior talent the .357 String Band embodied. That is why it is such great news that the band has reissued the seminal Fire & Hail on split-color red/while limited-edition numbered vinyl.

But even if vinyl is not your bag, if you’ve never heard of this band or never owned Fire & Hail, do yourself a favor and stop down and get yourself a copy. And for the rest of us, the warmth of analog sound will be a tide over until our glorious .357 rises from the ashes to reproduce their magic that has been stricken from the ear too long. Or at least, that’s what we will tell ourselves to cope with the fact they continue to no longer be around. And in a similar vein, there’s talk from them of a “Best Of” with some unreleased tracks seeing the light of day soon, so maybe there’s still a chance to satiate a little more of the .357 String Band thirst that haunts us, eternally unreplenished as long as their hiatus remains active.

If you have a record player, get this. And if you don’t, get a record player. And then get this.

Two guns up!

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Purchase Fire & Hail Limited Edition Vinyl

…or you can also paypal $19 to streetgrass77 at gmail dot com. Free US shipping, add $5 for Canada, and $9 for Europe.

Preview Tracks & Purchase Digitally at iTunes

18 Comments to “.357 String Band Reissues Landmark Album “Fire & Hail””

  • Did Derek Dunn ever release any of the EPs he was talking about. He said one of them was songs he wrote from their final album that they never finished. I never heard about it again.


    • I have an email into him. Not exactly sure at the moment.


  • The pain of knowing I will never see them play live again cuts deep. I have introduced people to this band that would otherwise never listen to this genre, and I still get asked all the time if they are ever going to get back together. They are all talented musicians, but they will never be as good as they were together.


  • wow! great sound. ive seen them mentioned on here a bunch of times but had never gotten around to youtubing them.


  • I want this. I will buy this. That said I am VERY happy with Huber and Orvis’ solo stuff and I view that as worth the loss.


  • “Down on a Bender” is one of my favorite underground country/bluegrass songs of all time.


  • I was lucky enough to open for them a couple times in Minneapolis and the energy and talent they had was phenomenal. Too bad they couldn’t hold it together but they were traveling a tough road back then with lots of miles and not a whole lot of money. When I saw them open for Devil Makes Three about a year ago without Jayke you tell their race was nearly run. But back in the day there wasn’t a band better than 357 String Band. Nice to see them getting their due here in SCM. 2 guns up for you Trig.


  • I have this album and I have dropped the needle several times.. I have number 104 and I ordered only a few days after they started taking orders… if you plan on getting yourself a copy of underground country gold, go get it fast… they are only pressing 500 so they are going quick…

    Great read Trigg… I was hoping you would do another review on this album!


    • Weirdly, I have number 52, exactly half yours. Fortunately, I did get the entire album. Ordered mine within hours of it being announced, and very glad to have it.


  • My copy is on the way! Can’t wait


  • Hey Triggerman, has Derek Dunn ever released anything on his own?


    • Search Derek W. Dunn on Revernation. He’s got 6 or 7 tracks on there. Really good stuff. Ive been wonderin bout Billy Cook- if he will be doin an album.


    • Sorry, I haven’t been ignoring these Derek Dunn questions, just hoping someone else had the answer. I have an email into him about the status of EP’s, releases and such. As soon as I know, I will post it. Meanwhile here a link to his songs on ReverbNation:



  • My wife melted in my arms when they played Neil Diamond’s “Delirious Love” at a little place in Santa Cruz. They could go the rest of their lives not doing another damn thing but no one can take that away from me.


  • Great news! Glad to see this re-released.
    Correct me if I am wrong Triggerman, but the 4th .357 album was recorded (or nearly recorded) when the band called it quits.
    Personally, I think it would have been a great send off–and great thank you to the fans if that album had seen the light of day. Joe Huber’s Tongues of Fire is a great disc– it rarely leaves my cd player…but I can only imagine what songs like ‘Walking Fine’ would have sounded like with the full .357 treatment.


    • Yes. I’m not sure exactly where they were in the process of the 4th album when they called it quits. I want to say they had the material written, but either hadn’t recorded any of it, or just a few songs. They said at the time of the breakup, the new material would be heard on Derek Dunn and Joe Huber’s solo projects, some of which we’ve already heard on “Tongues of Fire” and other stuff we’ll hear on Derek Dunn’s EP I’m still waiting to get word about.

      This is what Derek said a while back:


      “The songs that I had prepared for the next .357 album are going to make up the crux of the e.p. I’m working on right now, which should be finished early next year, I hope. I’m actually working on two separate e.p.s. The second one which I’m working on sort of secondarily will be released later, that being a collection of songs I’d had written while in .357, but didn’t think was appropriate for .357, for whatever reason.”


  • “Still, the loss of .357 String Band may go down as underground country’s greatest tragedy. I can think of no other project that was so ripe for becoming a success story of authentic American underground roots. They were brilliant, but accessible at the same time.”

    This is how I feel about The Weary Boys.


  • It has been a real pleasure listening to this the last few days. It is certainly their strongest album. The others are not without their pleasures, but this one has the broadest sonic palate and I believe it will wind up being a classic of the first order. Seriously.

    The bands they are compared to often seem forced and a bit sterile in comparison. There’s a real liveliness and playfulness here that sounds easy and natural yet is difficult to replicate. The closest analogue I can think of is the Pogues, who took a musical form that had all the joy of an anal probe kept in a refrigerator, and completely reinvigorated it with seeming ease. Crap, the Pogues sounded as good as prime Dubliners, and I put 357 in the same class. Can’t get any higher.

    I found about 357 from this site. I’d found a Rusty Wier album I really liked, and doing a search for info on him, I found this site. By chance, there was a 357 related article on this site that day. I read it. I call this happenstance of the best sort.


Leave a comment

Del Maguey
Old Soul Radio Show
Modern Roots
Best Of Lists