Ever since I was a young boy I played the silver ball..
Forty-five years after its initial release, The Who's rock opera TOMMY has been transformed by The Hillbenders into a full-length bluegrass tribute with all of the original record's energy, instrumental showmanship, and rock star vocals in tact. Originally recorded with a full rock band, the dynamic bluegrass quintet recreated the legendary album with a banjo, Dobro, mandolin, bass, and guitar. The “Bluegrass Opry,” as its been dubbed, brings a new perspective to TOMMY while paying homage to its creators.
SXSW co-founder and musician/producer Louis Jay Meyers conceived the idea of a “bluegrass opry” and felt he’d found the right band to pull off this high-wire approach to the record when he met The Hillbenders, a band known for its ability to bridge the gap between musical genres and fans. The live performance is a full 75-minute show covering the original album from start to finish with special video accompaniment and audience participation.
The HillBenders’ SXSW 2015 Live Performance of TOMMY: A BLUEGRASS OPRY Earns High Praise From Music Critics:
“Still, two shows stood out well above all else. The silver medalist was the aforementioned bluegrass “Tommy,” performed by a Missouri quintet called Hillbenders. I half-expected a “Pickin’ On”-style gimmick, but it was a phenomenal and brilliantly executed homage to the classic rock opera. It was amusing to see how they replicated various flourishes from the original with bluegrass instrumentation—slide Dobro riffs standing in for French horn, choked mandolin strums for drum beats—but it transcended novelty, thanks to frontman Nolan Lawrence’s vocals.” —David Menconi, The News & Observer
“You haven’t heard “Acid Queen” until you’ve seen it sung by a bearded man with a mandolin. Covering the Who’s Tommy in its entirety as a “bluegrass opry”…They faithfully replicated the songs… embellished them with banjo, mandolin and dobro to give the music an extra moonshine kick. The HillBenders, a talented five-piece band from Missouri, proved to be the perfect group to execute this “Whograss” concept” — Billboard