New Album Release: Handguns – Greensky Bluegrass
Greensky Bluegrass, the bluegrass-hybrid quintet from Kalamazoo, will be performing both this Friday and Saturday at the Majestic Theater. Their New Year’s celebration/ album release party will be in support of their newest release, Handguns.
A pre-release EP of Handguns, including five of the album’s upcoming songs, was made available online in October. The finished album has nine additional tracks, and has more fun than the EP leads to believe.
In addition to performing at large-scale music festivals such as Bonnaroo, Bumbershoot, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass and Electric Forest – Greensky has played 160 shows every year, for the past six years.
This group has transcended boundaries set by listeners, artists and genres by experimenting with traditional means to create contemporary sounds. Handguns was recorded in between Greensky’s winter tours using straight-to-tape recording consoles, vintage microphones and a wide variety of unique instruments – including a dobro, horns and an upright bass.
Anders Beck (dobro), Michael Arlen Bont (banjo), Dave Bruzza (guitar), Mike Devol (upright bass) and Paul Hoffman (mandolin) make up an act with a mature sense of instrumentation and modern know-how, and the group’s collective vocals are smoothly harmonized over what sounds like the finger picking Olympics. Handguns is the culmination of timeless themes and the true spirit of the Great Lakes.
Paul Hoffman, Greensky’s vocal master, wrote 10 out of the 14 tracks. He gathers truth from his own personal struggles, and weaves a lyrical story that can be enjoyed by all music listeners. This album enjoys a broad series of messages, but focuses on strife, perseverance and inner strength.
The opening track titled, “Don’t Lie”, introduces the members of the band, and demonstrates the group’s finger picking prowess. Hoffman’s lyrics are accompanied by a great picking solo, and plenty of country/western vibes.
The title track, Handguns, is a dynamic piece that features plenty of honky-tonk sounding slides and dobro solos. The blend of swaying voices and twang creates an undeniably American sound, and an album favorite.
“I’d Probably Kill You”, introduces an interesting aspect to a traditionally stringed genre – a horn section. The subtle use of brass accents ties the piece together. This is not your standard folk jam. The softened horns are an indication of Greensky’s ability to master music well – even while being true to traditional recording techniques.
One of the album’s last tracks, “Hot Dogs (On Parade)”, is a whimsical showcase of instrumentation – including an unforgettable kazoo accompaniment, a drunken guitar part and a clumsy horn section. This track, which is not seen on the pre-released EP, is just more than two minutes, but would be perfect for a parade of bluegrass loving hotdogs.
Handguns is a must have for contemporary bluegrass lovers. Even for listeners with a limited ear for folk melodies, this album is simply full of great music. Hoffman’s lyrics, and the band’s perfect blend of stringed components, make for a completely unique listen. Greensky Bluegrass has once again created an appeal that stretches numerous genres, and several generations.