Armchair Boogie - Hard Times & Deadlines



Armchair Boogie are a group defined by their forward-thinking approach to a type of music most often associated with times gone by. Over the course of three albums and extensive touring, the group has established itself as a collection of dedicated practitioners of rootsy, bluegrass-styled music re-cast and shaped by their appreciation of modern improvisation. The four-piece band plays an interesting mix of roots-music, mixing rock undertones in a vibrant jamgrass, newgrass. grassicana hybrid and crowd-pleasing revelry. Members are all skilled instrumentalists and share in the song creation, with either Ben Majeska (vocals, electric, acoustic guitar) or John ‘Augie’ Dougherty (vocals, banjo) penning the lyrics, and Eli Frieders (electric bass, back-up vocals) and Denzel Connor (drums, piano, back-up vocals), joining in on composing the music. They are accompanied by Jeremy Garrett (fiddle on Gone In A Day), Ernest Brusubardis IV (fiddle on Liquor Store) and the Payback Horns (Low Down Time). Melding indie rock fervour with the intricate fretwork of bluegrass, the band steer their way through both genres without slowing and manage to come out on the other side with something unique and wholly their own.

Ben shares his thoughts on Gone In A Day, while the group stays true to a grassicana template that ensures a signature sound. A preamble of sorts that states an underlying theme precisely and concisely, with banjo blazing, guitar chopping, and fiddle freely wailing. They step gingerly into John Hartford territory with Hard Times, a celebration of community, camaraderie, and feverish cabin creativity. This has more of a bare boned musical approach that relies on little more than two voices, a robust banjo strum, and a steady stream of solid bass notes. My feet started tapping and my head nodding once Liquor Store took off with dazzling fiddle and finely plucked banjo. Might not be bluegrass in the strictest sense, but it’s mighty close as Dougherty gets all nostalgic for how things used to be, when life was more carefree.

If anything, they lean even more towards grassicana with the frenetic Livin’. A crackerjack of a song which epitomises the sort of aggressive, take no prisoners, smash and grab grass favoured by many young players these days. They even craft a cool funk song with the bass-heavy Low Down Time. The backdrop expands, with sustained guitar, horns and circling banjo arpeggios that would sound perfectly at home in a cool, late-night dance club setting. The poignant You’ve Been Hurt, halfway into the album, operates as a diptych, introducing a more rustic aspect that perfectly reflects the group’s command of a breadth of musical styles. Other songs further showcase that range …Empty Pools lands squarely in the nexus between a rockin’ jam and Americana, All the Same is a hook-ridden and riff-y tune that epitomises the band’s knack for soft-loud dynamics, whilst with the nuanced tones of Skippin’ Town, the sturdy instrumental support combines for a celebratory sound that’s devoid of flash and frenzy. Listeners have come to expect solid contemporary bluegrass-flavoured music from Armchair Boogie, and they won’t be disappointed, as within those realms, variety and verve stay in sync as they deliver with a whole lot of their trademark boogie.

February 2024