BY LEE ZIMMERMAN
Formed in 2000, the five-piece, Michigan-based band that goes by the unlikely moniker Greensky Bluegrass ranks among the best of that elite breed of nu-grass outfits that are helping to redefine fiddle and banjo music for a new generation of Americana enthusiasts. While their populist precepts have made them favorites on the festival circuit, to their credit, they also represent themselves well on record.
If Sorrows Swim, their most accomplished effort yet, offers a combination of lightning swift licks (i.e. “A Letter to Seymour,” “Worried About the Weather,” “Wings for Wheels”) and thoughtful musings (“Windshield,” “Demons,” “In Control,” “Forget Everything”), the result of which offers a thoughtful balance between urgency and emotion. That’s a credit to their instrumental agility, a sound that’s at once elegiac and expressive. Like Steep Canyon Rangers, a band with whom they seem to share a musical kinship, Greensky Bluegrass vary their motif in ways that give a nod to tradition while also asserting a certain poetic prowess.
It’s also clear that the band — lap steel player Anders Beck, banjo player Michael Arlen Bont, guitarist Dave Bruzza, bassist Michael Devol and mandolin and ukulele player Paul Hoffman — are adept at weaving arrangements that stay true to the bluegrass vernacular while reinforcing those melodic merits as well. Consequently, an affinity for bluegrass isn’t strictly required. An appreciation for craft and consistency will do just fine.
DOWNLOAD: “Worried About the Weather,” “Windshield,” “In Control”