Hot Mustard may well be a bluegrass first - a quartet featuring two banjos and two married couples! When guitarist/lifelong bluegrass singer April Jubett teamed up with singer/banjo picker Bill Jubett, a truly classic-sounding duet was born. Add banjoist/singer Bruce Stockwell, a 40-year bluegrass veteran and Merlefest banjo contest winner, along with his wife, bassist Kelly Stockwell, and you've got some hot and spicy bluegrass chemistry.
Hot Mustard began as a NH Arts Grant between Bruce Stockwell and Bill Jubett. Bruce and Bill put together a number of double-banjo arrangements over the course of the grant and decided to take their show on the road. Adding to the band are their wives and long-time musical companions, April Jubett on guitar and vocals and Kelly Stockwell on double bass.
Bruce has taught banjo for years in Putney, VT, where he is often overheard telling musicians to "put the mustard to it" meaning to play the next tune with extra spice. Bill & April have been singing those high, lonesome harmonies together in local bluegrass bands and around the house for a few years. Singing trios with Bruce has kicked it up a notch! Bill plays fiddle as well as banjo, and he knows a pile of old-time fiddle tunes. Kelly lugs her bass all over New England and can be found thumping away at jams, picking parties and festivals and as the heartbeat of Hot Mustard.
Curly Merzbacher http://secondcousincurly.wordpress.com says of Hot Mustard:
"...Then I heard it: a woman’s voice wafting across the field, singing some bluegrass standard in a way that I had only heard on old recordings. You could say that she was belting it out, except her singing had as much color and warmth as it had raw power. I found myself galloping past the concession stands. When I got to where I could see the stage, I discovered Hot Mustard..."
"...Hot Mustard, the New England bluegrass outfit whose motto is “Two banjos, no waiting!” ...I heard Hot Mustard before I set eyes on them, and so natural and integrated was their sound that it was only after watching them perform for a while that I noticed the unusual line-up: two banjos, guitar and bass. As they ably demonstrate, given the right degree of taste and control, you can’t have too much of a good thing."
"...For anyone familiar with the dozens of recorded versions of “Clinch Mountain,” the slow and spare vocal intro, written and sung by April Jubett, will come as a surprise. Those moody a cappella verses at the outset make the first salvo from Bill’s banjo sound like a clarion call. The tune gets even more of an adrenaline charge when Bill passes off to his mentor Bruce."
Dick Bowden writes in liner notes on the LIVE at Mole Hill Theatre CD:
"You're sure to enjoy this debut of New England's finest new bluegrass band. Hot Mustard features intricate twin banjo pickin’ and terrific singing, like you’ve probably never heard!
Banjoist Bruce Stockwell is known around New England for decades of great work with the Stockwell Brothers, and for his excellent banjo instruction. Bruce’s wife Kelly, an old-time banjoist in her own right, took up the bass fiddle facilitating the formation of Hot Mustard. She eagerly tackles unusual bass breaks. Bruce and Kelly live in southern Vermont.
Guitarist/singer April Jubett comes from Maine, inspired by her dad’s decades of playing bluegrass there. April is a vocal stylist with a clear, clean, vibrato-free country tone hailing back to Sara Carter. She also plays strong guitar (with a thumb pick) and emcees the show. April and Bill Jubett were literal newlyweds at the time of this recording. Bill is Bruce’s banjo student and protégé. They must have woodshedded endlessly to develop their stunning twin banjo arrangements of jazz, blues, country and bluegrass standards, as you’ll hear in “Medley” and Jimmy Martin’s “Theme Time” and “Hold Whatcha Got”. Bill is also a stout lead singer. Bill and April live in southern New Hampshire.
Every bluegrass band has learned, no matter how hot the pickin’, you’ve got to have good singing. Hot Mustard features very traditional numbers such as Jean Ritchie’s “Blue Diamond Mines” and Roy Acuff’s “Streamlined Cannon Ball”. April leads the way with power and sensitivity. She also sings terrific harmony with Bill and Bruce, notably on the Stanley Brothers inspired “Angel Band”. The only adjective for their slow trios is “luscious”! April also wrote and sings a haunting introduction to Ralph Stanley’s “Clinch Mountain Backstep”. She adds verses to “The Banks of the Ohio” telling the unfortunate girl’s side of the story, as she duets with Bill.
Hot Mustard may be the hardest working band in New England - always on the go, playing from Maine to New York and everywhere in between. Their unique show is a welcome addition to festival and concert schedules.
On this live recording you’ll hear it all – amazing twin banjos, powerful and moving vocals, and strong bass playing. Hot Mustard presents their show with infectious good nature and a smooth delivery honed in scores of live performances like this one at Mole Hill Theater. Enjoy their spicy offerings!"