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Although it may seem that today’s worlds of hip-hop and country exist on
opposite ends of the universe. Actually, like almost all popular American music, it
came from the same style: the blues . You don’t have to tell that to The Darnell Boys.
Of the three Darnell brothers -- Caleb, Austin and Gus —the latter two made names
for themselves in town as rappers. Austin made his name in the highly regarded
Deaf Judges and Gus performing as Gus D. at house parties and clubs since he was in
high school. Then, about six months ago, they took the obvious next step — form a
band that meanders back and forth from multi-part harmonies in the 1950s country
-tradition to gut -busting blues about evil women and whiskey.
The Darnell’s, all Athens locals, were raised on country and blues, Gus explains, including the Allman Brothers Band and Hank Williams Sr. “We’ve grown up with it because all my uncles and my father, they all play music, and they all play country and blues music,” said Gus. “So we grew up with my dad listening to a lot of country and blues and blues-rock kind of stuff.”
The Darnell Boys consist of the three Darnell brothers along with bassist Elijah Nessmith and “junkyard percussionist” Patrick Weiss, who plays washboards and saw. Onstage the Darnells are constantly rotating, each taking his turn on different instruments and in different roles. Aesthetically, the jump for Gus and Austin from hip
-hop to country/blues—especially in this old-time, family style — seems radical. But Gus explains it’s all actually linked together.
“Hip-hop was born from the blues and being in a shitty environment and having to get through it, and the way to get through it is just doing music. Both are kind of a healing process, trying to just figure out what’s going on in your life and make it through,” Gus said. “It’s nice to have the brothers there to back you up on it.”
Austin Darnell on vocals, harmonica, and rhythm guitar; Caleb Darnell on
vocals and lead guitar; Gus Darnell on vocals, rhythm guitar, and harmonica sometimes; Elijah Nesmith on bass; Patrick Weise on misc. percussion and singing