Never mess with perfection. . . unless you can make perfection better.
Don’t know if I’m the first ever to say that, but after watching the .357 String Band with their new mando/dobro player Billy Cook, I believe in it wholeheartedly.
The .357 String band was perfect circa this last Spring. That’s why it was difficult to understand the band replacing founding member Jayke Orvis with Billy Cook. For crying out loud, I proclaimed their album Fire & Hail the best album of 2008. And when I saw them play in the Spring, the only critical whimper I could muster is that their set could have been longer, and that was simply a selfish bray from a never-satisfied audiofile ass.
But when the news came down of the change, for some reason I trusted the other members. These guys were too smart, had made too many smart moves in the past to call this one wrong. And after seeing .357 this last Thursday night for the first time with Billy Cook, I can officially proclaim, the .357 String Band is better for the change.
In no way is this a knock on Jayke “Goddamn” Orvis (yeah, I coined that nickname, don’t wear it out). Jayke landed on his feet with The Goddamn Gallows after the shakeup, and he will always be a mandolin god to me. Orvis is a creative and skilled mandolin player, that also brings excellent songwriting abilities to the table. But from a technical standpoint, Billy Cook is the better player, and a better fit chemistry-wise in the band. It feels weird to say that, but it’s true. His dobro skills also bring a new aspect to some of Derek Dunn’s countrified numbers.
The shakeup was better for the .357 String band, and The Goddamn Gallows. I could understand if Jayke feels slighted by the whole thing, but the underground country consumer got an upgrade in these already top notch string bands, strengthening the whole scene.
One of the things that makes .357 such a great band is their presence on stage. You feel like they are just a great group of guys you’d love to hang out and have a beer with, that have let you on their front porch to watch them pick a few. Now this great aspect of their band has been purified. The guys laugh with each other, pick on each other, bump into each other as their playing as if there’s no personal space because they are acting as a completely cohesive unit.
During their set they played quite a few news songs, and I liked what I heard. The band confirmed that they will be recording a new album with Andy Gibson in November, likely to be released sometime in January.
History shows that it is not wise to mess with perfection. I refuse to watch any of the new Star Wars movies, because the first three were so perfect, and dumb characters like Jar Jar Binks from the new ones cheapened the whole franchise for me. But I’m happy to report that Billy Cook is no Jar Jar, he’s a Jedi.
Some videos of the new lineup: