"We're your worst nightmare - educated rednecks," announces Hayseed Dixie's frontman Barley Scotch, taking a giant gulp from a bottle of Newcastle Brown ale. You might easily mistake the band for a bunch of escapees from Death Row at Leavenworth penitentiary, with their tattoos, bandannas and faded dungarees. You'd have no way of knowing that Scotch (real name John Wheeler) is a doctor of philosophy who can quote Heidegger in the original German.
But listening to them, you would have to conclude that behind their boozing and wisecracking, this is a bunch of alarmingly accomplished bluegrass players. Their repertoire bears little resemblance to the music played by hillbilly heroes of yesteryear, even if they do encore with a speed-of-sound sprint through the theme from Deliverance.
The combo originally wanted to call themselves AC/Dixie, in honour of Oz-rockers AC/DC, but legal complications intervened. None the less, the Dixies love a blast of classic metal as much as they love Hank Williams, so hot-pickin' versions of AC/DC classics such as Highway to Hell and Hell's Bells are staples of their repertoire. Their sheer velocity and deranged ensemble-playing somehow mirror the thunderous wattage of the originals.
That's not all. Led Zeppelin's Black Dog gets a spin in the guitar, mandolin and banjo blender, along with Whole Lotta Love, complete with a ludicrous parody of the "orgasm" sequence (both appear on the band's new album, A Hot Piece of Grass). Queen's Fat-Bottomed Girls flashes past and vanishes into the distance like the Road Runner.
By this time, Scotch is chasing down his beers with swigs of whisky, but it only seems to help his fingers move faster as the group dash through originals like Moonshiner's Daughter and Blind Beggar Breakdown. During the last song, Will the Circle Be Unbroken, Scotch pauses the band while he downs a whole bottle of Newcastle Brown, claiming he doesn't want to leave the stage sober.
At a time when rock stars are becoming missionaries, the Hayseeds' berserk hedonism is refreshing indeed.
· At the Americana International Festival, Winthorpe, tomorrow. Box office: 0115-939 0505. Then touring.