who is Hog-eyed man?

Rob & Jason, Athens, GA 2015. Photo: Amy Heaton

"Blasting apart the staid world of old-time fiddling and looking for something new in the roots of the music," (Devon Leger, The Bluegrass Situation) Athens, GA's Hog-eyed Man explores a treasure-trove of traditional music from the pre-radio era, when ghosts of Scots-Irish tunes mingled with distinctly American sounds. Fiddler Jason Cade and multi-instrumentalist Rob McMaken are at the helm, often joined on stage (and on their most recent recording) by a community of oldtime music friends

The last guardians of 19th century solo fiddle traditions from the Southern Appalachians played with a wild and lyrical earthiness that still resonates with anyone who appreciates authentic tradition and unvarnished musical expression. Though some of their repertoire would become smoothed out and incorporated into the modern oldtime and bluegrass canons, many of the more asymmetrical tunes and nuanced aesthetics of the earlier masters were left behind. Hog-eyed Man takes listeners on a soulful journey, rooted in community and tradition, stretching back into this forgotten past while simultaneously reaching forward to oldtime music’s alternate future.

As a youngster, Jason Cade began learning rare tunes and an older style of playing from master fiddler and tune-catcher Bruce Greene, his neighbor growing up in Yancey County, NC. Jason’s oldtime music is also heavily influenced by his mother’s fiddle teacher, the late Byard Ray of Madison County, NC, and the field recordings of the tremendous musicians who once lived in the Blue Ridge Mountain region of western NC, eastern TN, and north Georgia. In 2016, Jason won the prestigious fiddle contest at the Appalachian Stringband Festival in Clifftop, WV. He has also placed first in both fiddle and traditional singing at the Georgia String Band Festival & Fiddlers Convention in Calhoun, GA.

North Georgia native Rob McMaken has developed a tasteful and exciting accompaniment style on lap dulcimer, mandolin, guitar, and banjo-uke, effortlessly shifting between note-for-note melody, harmonic counterpoint, and rhythmic drones harkening back to the Old World. Before immersing himself in oldtime music, Rob traversed musical traditions from all over the world in the folk duo Dromedary and the jazz collective Kenosha Kid. 

Jason and Rob met in North Carolina in 2003 while recording on Jonathan Byrd’s The Sea and the Sky. A decade later, Jason moved his family to Athens from Brooklyn, they reconnected, and Hog-eyed Man was born.

Hog-eyed Man's explorations into the deep oldtime music of the Southern Appalachians have been documented on four critically acclaimed CD volumes thus far.

Jason & Bruce, Burnsville, NC 1987. Photo: Marilyn Cade

Rob, Athens, GA 2016. Photo: Jason Thrasher

The duo's debut, Hog-eyed Man 1 (Yodel-Ay-Hee 090, 2014), was heralded as “simply wonderful, powerful and compelling”  (Bluegrass Unlimited), “absolutely cracking, one of the best albums of the year” (Blues Matters), “glorious” (The Living Tradition), “terrific, [with] incredible depth of feeling” (American Roots UK), "quite remarkable" (The Old-Time Herald), “a joy to listen to” (Musical Traditions), “a soulful celebration of a grand tradition” (Rambles), “[music that] will make you want to get up and dance” (Fiddler Magazine), and “as honest and direct a representation of music sourced from past generations of North Carolina, Kentucky and Virginia fiddlers as one could wish for” (fRoots).

Hog-eyed Man 2 (Yodel-Ay-Hee 091, 2015) received similar praise. "A cracking selection of wonderful tunes, the disc showcases the remarkably wide emotional range of pre-stringband old-time music" (The Living Tradition). The album has been described as "extremely well-played, pure fiddle joy" (Fiddler Magazine), and "wonderful ... [revealing] how much is at the core of the tradition" (The Bluegrass Situation). "As long as traditional music can be played with this degree of faithfulness to its origins, combined with a real sense of the modern musicians who are playing it, its future seems in very good hands” (Musical Traditions). 

After laying the groundwork for this exploration as a duo in the first two volumes, Hog-eyed Man 3 (Yodel-Ay-Hee 104, 2016), took it up a notch. Featuring special guests Beverly Smith (guitar, fiddle, singing) and John Grimm (banjo, fiddle), Hog-eyed Man 3 was called "a masterpiece" (Bluegrass Unlimited), "infused with an atmospheric and emotional richness of the sort that happens only when art and artist are in perfect alignment" (Rambles). The album serves up edgy breakdowns, lively stringband songs and dance-tunes, poignant airs, and rare gems sourced from field recordings or handed directly down from community fiddlers. The result is a rare oldtime album "full of strong playing and great taste" (Fiddler Magazine) that is diverse while cohesive, distinctive while traditional, and ultimately just good music.

Hog-eyed Man’s fourth release, “Old World Music of the Southern Appalachians,” has just been released on the Los Angeles-based label Old-Time Tiki Parlour. “Recorded entirely live around two ribbon microphones, this album transports the listener to an intimate kitchen session, where the musicians comfortably settle in on twenty lesser-known gems mined from deep Appalachia. The nuanced and powerful performances essentially re-envision southern old-time tunes as if radio, the folk revival, and bluegrass never happened but the music instead continued to organically develop along some alternate path. Throughout, Jason and Rob manage to let their own voices emerge as authentic interpreters of the tradition while remaining true to the wild, lyrical, and unvarnished aesthetics of the source fiddlers who they revere. The result is a captivating album of deep-vein Americana—gritty, emotionally rich, and timeless. The vivid recording quality combines with the thoughtfully interwoven strands of almost-lost musical sensibilities to give Old World Music of the Southern Appalachians a rustic-yet-refined sound like no other. This album is destined to become a classic!” (Folkworks).

Regular special guests and collaborators with Hog-eyed Man include Charlie & Nancy Hartness of Hawk Proof Rooster, Tom Baker of the Packway Handle Band, Beverly Smith, John Grimm, Art Rosenbaum, and Chris Enghauser.

Hog-eyed Man uses and enthusiastically endorses D'Addario strings, which are featured on all of our recordings. Thank you D'Addario!