Raised outside of Conroe, Texas, Cashman looked up to the gifted older black musicians who he grew up around. He would listen to them play music and tell stories, and the influences of that are certainly everywhere on this superb album. Rough & Tumble South focuses on food, experiences traveling on the road, and inspiration from Southern Gothic literature. Cashman has no shortage of life experience to draw upon, having served in the army, worked as a carpenter and done numerous other career moves such as, driving a fork lift, bar tending, selling cars, plumbing, roofing and being a stay-at-home dad.
This album was recorded at the Bomb Shelter studio in East Nashville and released on Cashman’s independent label D Bomb Records. Bluesy guitar riffs, Cashman’s tough baritone vocals, strong drumming and washboards from band player Adam Verone and backup vocals from Grace Askew, as well as the trombone of bandmate Diego Vasquez, guitar of Davis Coen, expert fiddling of Ollie Oshea and bass and organ know-how of John Estes make this full-band recording a full musical ride.
Cashman reminds me of another excellent blues and jug band who were one of my favourites growing up, called the Tarbox Ramblers from Massachusetts (on Rounder Records). Both artists achieve a high-energy raw hillbilly roots sound that really captures the ear and gets the toe tapping.
Standout tracks include the soulful meditation on enjoying life and its nature, with the old-time fidding of Oshea. “a little slowing down/couldn’t cause us any harm,” sings Cashman, who wrote all the songs on the album.
Track “Feeling No Pain,” stems from the best of blues traditions and is reminiscent of the 1930s Mississippi Sheiks super hit “Sitting on Top of the World.” Catchy, fun bluesy tracks like “Mudbugs,” “Holcomb Roll,” and “the Food Song,” are matched by songs with melodic old-time banjo riffs and underlying darkness such as “Evangeline,” where the song’s narrator tells a girl in trouble that he will save her from people trying to catch and hang her as the banjo plucks madly in the background, emphasizing the situation they are in.
“Skin,” and “the Devil and I” also hew down to the core of the human condition as blues does at its best, but they do so with determination and grit, world-weariness tempered by a zest for standing up to your demons. “From the beginning of time that battle he has waged,” Cashman growls with the full-throttle guitars and drums highlighting the struggle. Then there are the adrenaline-kickers like “Moving Fast,” and “Turn the Key,” that describe the fast-moving adventure and ups-and-downs of life with gusto and driving energy. “I’m movin’ fast/ and I’m leavin’ slow,” Cashman sings, drawing out the end as the band fades.
Cashman’s 2007 album Texasippi Stomp was on the nomination ballot for best traditional blues album at the 2007 Grammy Awards, and Rough & Tumble South may not do too shabby itself. It certainly deserves any accolades it receives, and the more people that take a listen the more these will roll in. Rough & Tumble South is a genuine diamond in the blues world. This is a strong, strong recording. Listeners are encouraged to visit Cashman’s website and consider picking up a copy of Rough & Tumble South for themselves. Highly recommended.