JBO Reviews All Access Volume Two by Greensky Bluegrass | JamBandsOnline.com

JBO Reviews All Access Volume Two by Greensky Bluegrass

January 31, 2011

Review by Lara Keithley

All Access Volume two was recorded in Teaneck, NJ on 7/30/10.  A nice thing about live recordings is the band banter and crowd reaction.  This recording has just enough of each to keep it interesting but not annoying.

Greensky Bluegrass was the Winner of the 2006 Telluride Bluegrass Festival Band Competition.  They hail from, Michigan and are gaining a reputation in acoustic roots music.  The five members are Anders Beck (dobro), Michael Arlen Bont (banjo), Dave Bruzza (guitar), Mike Devol (upright bass) and Paul Hoffman (mandolin).

Greensky Bluegrass combines down home vocals with traditional instrumentation.  They are consummate story tellers as well.  Here are some highlights of there new CD which is available now at http://www.greenskybluegrass.com/ .

Overall the CD gives you a good indication of what these guys are about.  They are obviously serious musicians with the chops to prove it.  The stories they tell and their humor, combined with luscious harmonies and lightening fast breakdowns, make the CD an enjoyable listen from the first song to the last.  Greensky Bluegrass throws down some pants-on-fire pickfests, thought provoking story telling and fun observations about the world around them.

“Through the Trees” has a John Hartford kind of feel to it.  Eloquent lyrics and heartfelt harmonies make this a really enjoyable track.

Paul Hoffman’s mandolin is featured in the fourth track, “Blood sucking F(r)iends” which is a waltz with a nice traditional feel.  The tongue in cheek lyrics are smile inducing.  The juxtaposition of the words and the music make this a fun, short ditty.

The CD contains some decent covers. “Freeborn Man” begins with an intro that is bluesy and instrument driven with some slick dobro riffs by Beck.  The pace picks up considerably with some mighty fine picking underscoring Soulful harmonies and ­­­Bruzza’s rich vocals.  Most bluegrass enthusiasts know “every inch” of this song’s highway. But, it sounds fresh none the less. It is a pleasing version with the bands own stamp on it. And yes, you can dance to it!

One of my personal favorites “Jesus on the Mainline” is next.  I wasn’t disappointed in the fast delivery and solid vocals.  A nice thing about this band is its confidence in delivering traditional, butt-kicking blue grass.

Yay!  a “China Cat Sunflower”.  And nicely done!  Its whimsical and just a touch psychedelic with a cool shot of dobro thrown in.  The mando and banjo licks thread through the song to give it an added flavor.

“China Cat” is followed by a “Rider”. Excellent!  This “I Know You Rider” has a warm country feel to it. The band gets kudos for the “China Rider” from this old Deadhead.  It’s a risk unless you can do it well and they did.

“Bottle Dry” slows it down.  This is a belly rubbing song with some nice sax work by Andy Goessling of Railroad Earth. It has a lazy, sultry feel to it that is enhanced by mournful lyrics like “Gonna spend my time counting things that make you cry”

Written by the banjo player, ­­­Michael Arlen Bont, “Runnin the Briars” is the next track after “Bottle Dry”.  This picks the pace back up to the speed of light.  Devol’s ability to keep the steady bass rhythm going is admirable in this barn burner of an instrumental.  It’s a head bobbin, booty shakin’ tune, to be sure.

“Gumboots” has a bit of a N’awlins flare to it.  A hint of calypso can be found in the mando licks.  The lyrics make an interesting story.  It’s fun and funky.  I think a new pick up line can be found in the lyrics “Why don’t we get together and call ourselves an institute?”

A working class anthem follows in the tune “Grow Bananas”.  The music is solid and the lyrics are thought provoking.

“Last Winter in the Copper Country” is some haunting storytelling.  The instrumentation is on point to capture the bleak tale.  ­­Brazza’s voice delivers just the right note of desperation to complete the picture.

“I’d Probably Kill You” made me laugh out loud at the audacity of its lyrics.  “I’d probably kill you if i wasn’t already wasted”. That’s funny stuff.  The Band is offering this song as a free download.  Give it a listen, you will enjoy it! http://greenskybluegrass.bandcamp.com/track/d2-05-id-probably-kill-you .

“Tuesday Letter” is a bluesy ballad that speaks of philosophical things.  It provides a nice change of pace on the CD and shows the diversity of the band.

“No Idea” is a nitty and gritty song about fighting.  Once again the story is compelling.  What makes this band’s story telling abilities so strong is their talent at pairing their lyrics with the instrumentation.  In this song both are dark and driven.

The CD ends with “Shuckin the Corn” another roots music instrumental that delivers.  These boys know their craft and have the chops to jam away.

I would recommend this CD to anyone who enjoys roots music.  Greensky Bluegrass is refreshing yet traditional.  You will feel comfortable with their talent and surprised by their ability to change it up with traditional instruments.

Here is their up coming schedule:

February 03        Chicago, IL  Double Door

February 06        Columbus, OH  Woodlands Tavern

February 09        Buffalo. NY  The Tralf     with Cornmeal

February 10        New York, NY  Sullivan Hall         with Cornmeal

February 11        Boston, MA  Middle East              with Cornmeal

February 12        Philadelphia, PA  World Cafe Live!  with Cornmeal

February 13        Baltimore, MD  8×10       with Cornmeal

March 25              Live Oak, FL  Suwannee SpringFest

March 26              Live Oak, FL Suwannee SpringFest

June 02                 Bean Blossom, IN Bill Monroe Memorial Music Park


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