Dry Branch Fire Squad: memories that bless and burn after all these years.


Jamal Hasan

Published on February 13, 2007




It was almost twenty-four years ago; I was a News Producer with Bangladesh Television. I happened to be a regular listener of Voice of America's Bangla programs. One day I was listening to a segment dealing with American cultural scene. Masuma Khatun spoke about bluegrass music and she discussed a bluegrass band named Dry Branch Fire Squad.  In her narration she briefly disclosed the genesis of the band's name, which sounded very much unusual to me.


I would say it was merely a coincidence I met the band members only a few days after the VOA broadcast. One fine morning my BTV news editor asked me to rush to the Dhaka airport to have an exclusive interview with the American band members who were supposed to arrive in Bangladesh on a short tour. On March 8 of 1982 I was at the Dhaka airport face to face with those bluegrass musicians. The following photos will show the pictures of that memorable moment.







Flash forward. This evening [January 12, 2006; 9 PM U.S. EST] I was reminiscing my good old BTV days by turning pages of a photo album. The pictures depicting my close encounter with those "fire squad" guys and gal came to my attention. I decided to scan the photos and put them on the Net. Thus the above images came into existence. Suddenly I became curious about the present status of the band. I did a quick Google search and guess what! I came up with their web page. The band is still very much active. The following links will speak for themselves: 






Hand Hewn  is the bandís latest CD project for Rounder Records. "The material chosen for this album reaffirms my opinion that they are the one true link between old-timey and bluegrass music," writes J. D. Rhynes in the liner notes to the project.

Taken together with Memories That Bless and Burn, a 2000 all-gospel compilation featuring six newly recorded tracks, these new projects will let many more people in on a secret that the bluegrass community has already known for years: Dry Branch Fire Squad is one of most entertaining and emotionally moving performance groups in American music today. 


I started to compare the images of a bunch of exceptionally creative artists in two different time periods, in this case only quarter of a century apart. Without much effort, I might have identified one or two of them. Can you try your skill?