Storytime: Strong lyrics set jamgrass band apart

Straight from the opening note of “Ricky Dunbar,” the first song of jamgrass band Cast Iron Filter’s (CIF) March performance at the Outback Lodge (the Outback folks were kind enough to give me a copy), one can perceive something that sets the group apart from the current crop of banjo-wielding hooligans. Yes, there ‘s actually not much banjo on most tracks– that instrument having been usurped by some sweet mandolin lines– but what I’m referring to is the group’s strong emphasis on the written word-– i.e. lyrics.
“Ricky Dunbar” tells the story of– you guessed it– “young Ricky Dunbar,” who, by means of his IROC-Z Camaro attempts to prove “he’s the fastest man alive” and picks a race-fight with “Big Jim’s” Trans Am. No question about the end-– Ricky crashes into Jim, and “that was all she wrote.”
Guitarist and vocalist Dustin Edge is CIF’s principal songwriter and lyricist, and it’s he who is most responsible for the group’s lyrical emphasis on small town life. Edge, a Louisville, Kentucky, native, was originally a punk rocker in the early ‘90s, but his present day shenanigans bear little resemblance to the genre that gave him his start– except for the group’s strong emphasis on speed and energy.
While Edge plays fine acoustic guitar, his principal contribution to the group, apart from his lyrical mastery, is his strong lead vocals. Hints of Blues Traveler’s John Popper (with less annoying range stretching) are apparent in Edge’s vocalizations-– the south, in addition to figuring heavily in CIF’s story-lyrics, also makes its presence known in Edge’s accent.
The other members of the group– bassist Mason Bissett, mandolinist Mike Orlando, and drummer Brian Burton– play their parts in Cast Iron Filter’s southern rock/bluegrass show equally well. Bissett’s walking bass lines are as solid as any I’ve ever heard (I firmly believe walking bass is a feature sorely missing from rock music since Paul McCartney, but that’s another story).
And while Burton is a fine drummer, Orlando is truly the group’s stand-out instrumentalist. His mandolin flourishes, when the performer oscillates from simple chords to full-on mandolin freak-outs, are a integral element of Cast Iron Filter’s sound, and Orlando rocks out on his small instrument as much as is physically possible.
So if you’re looking for a jammy, bluegrass-heavy, smile-provoking good time this Saturday night, why not go down to the Outback, and get yourself a strong shot of Cast Iron Filter. They’ll have you dancing in no time.

Cast Iron Filter performs at the Outback Lodge, Saturday June 7. $6, 10pm.