In nature, there's an avian hoodwinker called the cowbird, which is notorious for its sly ways. The cowbird lays its eggs in the nests of other birds, who then unwittingly care for a large chick that looks nothing like their own.
In a way, Rollin' in the Hay is a kind of cowbird of the musical world.
Despite their distinctly Southern rock leanings, the Alabama-based musicians are often mislabeled as a newgrass band because of their instrumentation (mandolin, guitar and bass).
Sometimes, it's not until the trio takes the stage at a festival that the band's hosts realize something's up, said lead singer Rick Carter.
"A lot of it, oddly enough, is because we don't have a drummer," Carter said. "Once we start playing, it's as if there were a drummer because of the fundamentals and the 'oomph' we play with.
"The traditionalists see us as a mandolin a guitar and a bass, but when we start playing, they're like, 'Wow, that's a lot heavier.'"
In all fairness, Carter said that when Rollin' formed in 1993, it was originally a bluegrass-tinged spinoff of his Birmingham, Ala.-based rock band Telluride. After Rollin' started picking up steam, however, it pulled a cowbird and overtook its host band's time, Carter said.
Since its inception, Rollin' in the Hay's musically ambiguous nature has landed the band opening slots for a wide range of artists, from the Charlie Daniels Band and the Doobie Brothers to Moe and Widespread Panic.
(They were also inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame -- as a bluegrass band.)
For all the confusion over the nature of their music, however, Carter said most people end up being won over by the band's split between high-energy performances and songs delivered like storytelling narratives.
"My musical philosophy is that if you entertain yourself, as a songwriter or a guitarist or whatever your musical interest may be, it becomes very contagious," he said. "I've found that, if they entertain me, there's a high probability that they will entertain others."
Rollin' in the Hay will take the stage at Rhythm & Brews on Wednesday.
"I've been writing songs for 42 years. Sometimes, I sit down to write a song because I can; sometimes, I sit down and write a song because I needed to."
-- Rick Carter, lead singer of Rollin' in the Hay
IF YOU GO
* What: Rollin' in the Hay.
* When: 10 p.m. Wednesday.
* Where: Rhythm & Brews, 221 Market St.
* Admission: $7.
* Phone: 267-4644.
* Venue Web site: www.rhythm-brews.com.
* Related links at fyi.timesfreepress.com.
1996: "Live at Oasis"
1998: "Renegade Bluegrass"
2000: "Live at Oasis 2"
2000: "Rollin' in the Hay"