Hot Rize was one of the liveliest, most eclectic, good-natured bluegrass bands of the 1970s and '80s, sporting the talents of Tim O'Brien, Charles Sawtelle, Pete Wernick and others... They also had an alter-ego as Red Knuckles & The Trailblazers, a comedic western swing/country oldies cover band. The band broke up in 1990, with O'Brien following a vigorous solo career, although the Hot Rize ensemble -- with various lineup changes, including the loss of Charles Sawtelle -- has reformed and toured informally over the years. Here's a quick look at their work...
Hot Rize "Hot Rize" (Flying Fish, 1979)
A sweet, sprightly album by one of the premiere newgrass bands of the late 1970s and early '80s, featuring guitarist Charles Sawtelle, banjo whiz Pete Wernick, Tim O'Brien on mandolin and fiddle, and Nick Foster on bass. Each broughttheir own sensibility and input into the band's style and repertoire, though overall they shared an easygoing, light-hearted love of good, old-fashioned melodic bluegrass and country. This album features several straightforward instrumental tracks, gospel harmony numbers, and some choice novelty tunes, including the perky "This Here Bottle," and their zippy cover of "Country Boy Rock'n'Roll." Where the Carter Family meets the New Riders Of The Purple Sage, that's where you'd find the Hot Rize boys. A good 'un!
Hot Rize "Radio Boogie" (Flying Fish, 1981)
Hot Rize "Red Knuckles & The Trailblazers" (Flying Fish, 1982)
A live concert send-up of old-time hillbilly radio shows. Kinda sedate musically, and a little too cutesy, but a nice chance to hear these fellas play some country, as opposed to bluegrass, music. Cover tunes include some old Webb Pierce, Johnny Horton and Roger Miller classics... among others!
Hot Rize "In Concert" (Flying Fish, 1984)
A nice, lively set, with the boys plunkin' their way through a swell set of traditional material. Midway through, they slip into their Red Knuckles persona, goofy fake "advertisements" and all... Musically this is much stronger than the first Red Knuckles album, worth checkin' out!
Red Knuckles & The Trailblazers "The French Way" (Wendell Way, 1984)
Hot Rize "Traditional Ties" (Sugar Hill, 1986)
Hot Rize "Untold Stories" (Sugar Hill, 1987)
Red Knuckles & The Trailblazers "Shades Of The Past" (Sugar Hill, 1989)
Hot Rize "Take It Home" (Sugar Hill, 1990)
Hot Rize "So Long Of A Journey: Live At The Boulder Theatre" (Sugar Hill, 2002)
A nice posthumous concert album from one of the big bluegrass supergroups of the 1980s. This album features Hot Rize at their best, professionally plowing their way through a powerful repertoire of original tunes and well-chosen oldies. This set was recorded during a 1996 reunion gig, and band gets a little looser and a little more playful than on some of their studio albums, as all concerned, including the late guitarist Charles Sawtelle, play the good stuff, all sweet and fine. Recommended!
Hot Rize/Red Knuckles & The Trailblazers "Classic... Recorded Live: July, 28, 1987" (Kentucky Center for the Arts 2006) (DVD)
Hick Music Index