Making it big: Hackensaws lean left abroad

"I think there's a lot of hypocrisy in our society. And I'm not above it. I'm just saying that music and art are venues for looking into that kind of thing." Never let it be said that David Sickmen puts his art on a pedestal.

However, his Charlottesville-based band, the Hackensaw Boys, is climbing some pedestals. The fall tour, which kicked off November 24 at Starr Hill, includes shows at such esteemed venues as New York's Mercury Lounge and opening (along with King Wilkie) for Del McCoury on New Year's Eve at Nashville's hallowed Ryman Auditorium.

"The beautiful thing about the Hackensaw Boys," says publicist Che Stratos, "is that it's music, and it's beautiful, and that's all that matters."

Having just returned from their second raucous stampede through Europe, the Hacks no doubt have plenty of fodder for late-night contemplation these days. They were, in a sense, representatives of Americana to a world in which anti-American sentiment is rampant– yet somehow the crowds still went wild.

"We had pretty much sellout shows everywhere we went," says Sickmen. "People want us to come back."

Believe it or not, that's the modest version.

One has to wonder how much of it has to do with the band's tendency to wax political during performances. A sympathetic philosophical outlook is one way to score a few brownie points with a Euro-audience, and there were no doubt a few onlookers amused by the spectacle of a left-leaning rootsy Southern bluegrass band.

"As much as you don't want people to come to a show and bum them out, music is a wonderful healing tool and a tool for dialogue," Sickmen says.

And as for the opposition?

"Well, I guess that's the chance you take in having an opinion," he says. "For me, it all ties in. Early American folk music was all about the struggle of the people."

Modern American folk music, on the other hand, is about... well, we'll find out in a few months. The Hackensaw Boys have been recording here at Crystalphonic Studios, and the new album is slated for release sometime this spring.

"I think this band is definitely going to be Charlottesville's next big thing," says Crystalphonic proprietor Kevin McNoldy. "The recording experience took a very long time, but it has been very rewarding and positive for all of us, and I think that people will be surprised when they hear what this band is capable of."

For a band earthy enough for a mouth harp and to regularly play a set of spoons, the Hackensaws seem ready to prove that pounding flatware needn't carry a stigma.

"This new album will be an indicator of what kind of dent we've really made," says Sickmen.

If their prior performance is any indication, they have reason to be optimistic. Earlier this year, the Hackensaws debuted at #6 on the Euro-Americana chart, an awkward amalgamation that represents record sales as calculated by a contingent of European music industry insiders.

This month, #6 is occupied by Steve Earle. To hell with modesty.

The Hackensaw Boys