Hailing from the mountains of Western North Carolina, Skunk Ruckus combines elements of old time banjo tunes and punk rock into a distinctly new sound they call Hillbilly Gutrock. Bandleader Jim McCarthy’s writes his songs of heartache and belligerence on clawhammer banjo, but his band uses electric instruments to expand the deceptively simple songs into sonic territories of discovery. Steeped in the long traditions of Appalachian fiddle and banjo styles, Skunk Ruckus brings both poignant songwriting and instrumental bombast in ways that update and transcend much of their source material. The goal is not so much to bend established genres or to create new forms of musical fusion. Rather Skunk Ruckus embraces a wide world of influences and is not afraid to live in a world where Charlie Poole might hang out with The Cramps.
Although Jim McCarthy has been writing songs about, as one reviewer noted, “murder and booze [and] boozy murder,” alongside bassist Max Steel for years, the band has only recently solidified into a rock quartet with the addition of Dave Gilbert on electric guitars and Claude Coleman Jr. on drums. Dr. Dave, as he is known, adds skronk and gravity with his various stylings of electric guitar, while drummer Claude Coleman recently came on board to record the band’s second full-length album and plans to make all the gigs he can in-between his longtime commitments to Ween (with whom he has played since 1993), Mike Dillon, and TV Tramps.
Skunk Ruckus tours regionally and nationally, often cutting up and down I-81 between Knoxville and Philadelphia. When not roaming the corridor, they also play circuits along the East Carolinas and Georgia. They’ve played and toured with Jim Avett, Southern Culture on the Skids, The Goddamn Gallows, Sawyer Family, The Ford Theater Reunion, Pierce Edens and The Dirty Works, Qiet, and Cut Throat Shamrock, among many other. They have also been featured at the Popcorn Sutton Memorial Jam in Western N.C. and Brandywine Folkfest in P.A., and North Charlestson’s annual Rockabillaque.