I can still whistle the theme song from The Andy Griffith Show, and I still refer to Ron Howard as “Opie,” but my memories of the series are isolated black-and-white images from when my grandmother used to watch it in syndication back in the ‘80s. The members of the bluegrass act the Grascals, on the other hand, fancy themselves experts on the show, even holding trivia contests with audiences at their live gigs. They attempt to parlay that fanboy obsession into a proper record on their new EP, the spectacularly named Dance Til Your Stockings Are Hot and Ravelin’: A Tribute to the Music of the Andy Griffith Show. Unfortunately, as is often the case with the work of diehard fanboys, the end result is too insular.
There’s no faulting the Grascals’ playing here: They’re a tremendously gifted lot of musicians who truly understand the conventions of traditional bluegrass music. But while the band’s fast-picking performances on “Boil Them Cabbage Down” and “Ol’ Joe Clark” are technically flawless, they’re also beholden to the band’s desire to adhere closely to the arrangements as played on The Andy Griffith Show. And the Grascals are simply capable of more innovative, more interesting arrangements.
Each of the songs on the album featured prominently in an episode of the long-running program, but they don’t necessarily make for a strong collection when taken out of that context. Both “Dooley” and “Ol’ Joe Clark” are narratives about backwoods moonshine runners, which limits the breadth of subject matter on an album of just seven tracks, while “Mayberry’s Finest Theme” and its references to “Aunt Bee’s” cooking works only as a bit of nostalgia. The set’s one original tune, “Boy, Giraffes Are Selfish,” attempts to build an entire song around one of the show’s memorable lines, but that’s still too obscure a reference for anyone outside of The Andy Griffith Show‘s core fanbase.
The overall effect is that of a novelty record. Those who share in the Grascals’ devotion to The Andy Griffith Show might eat this up, but anyone looking for a funnier and more subversive take on the show would be better served by listening to BR5-49’s “Me and Opie.”