Greensky Bluegrass doesn't see jam scene as black-and-white
Every once in a while, a band chooses a name so perfect that it tells you almost exactly what the band will sound like before you've even heard them play a note.
Greensky Bluegrass is one of these bands.
You know it's going to be bluegrass, of course. But then there's that goofy, pun-ny Greensky bit. It seems like perhaps these guys could be little irreverent, and perhaps less concerned with tradition-bound orthodoxy, but confident enough in their pickin' skills to call themselves “bluegrass.”
Right on all counts.
Greensky Bluegrass, which is performing Jan. 22 at the Rex Theater on the South Side, has a knack for keeping its options open. Though their bread-and-butter is the jam-band scene, they're just as comfortable sharing a bill with hardcore bluegrass legends like Del McCoury. Or, they can be a change-of-pace band at a rock festival, and certainly hold their own.
Bluegrass isn't an obvious choice for kids growing up in Kalamazoo, Mich., far from the Appalachian homeland of the music.
“It was something we all listened to,” says guitarist Dave Bruzza. “We found it through the Grateful Dead, mostly.”
The Dead's influence is large, but not immediately obvious. Instead, they play bluegrass fast and hard, with a skill for writing downbeat, melancholy lyrics — played at blazing-fast speeds. It's a heady blend — like whiskey and espresso in the same cup — but it works.
Despite showing increasingly strong songwriting, Greensky Bluegrass is known just as much for their memorable, unexpected covers. Their extended-bluegrass-workout versions of Prince's “When Doves Cry” or Bruce Springsteen's “Dancing in the Dark,” tend to win over even the most-ardent bluegrass skeptics.
“Sometimes it comes about as a joke (choosing songs to cover),” Bruzza says. “Sometimes, it's friends or family who have a suggestion. Something really hits you, and it feels right. For a couple of years, we did this '80s Halloween thing, and did two sets of '80s tunes.”
Looking forward, the band seems happy evading easy categorization, which opens up all sorts of unexpected opportunities.
“It's not intentional,” Bruzza says. “It's just what we do. We like our songs and the way we're going. Our influences are all over the board. We just take whatever we think sounds good.”
Michael Machosky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 412-320-7901.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.