Greensky Bluegrass have delivered a masterful set of songs that strike a near perfect balance between instrumentation and imagery on their latest release, Shouted, Written Down & Quoted. Combining the hard work and dogged persistence that any enterprise needs to succeed with an inescapable emotional resonance effortlessly created, Greensky has moved the bar higher yet again. Hundreds of shows a year have afforded each member a chance to hone their skills individually, which the have taken to full effect. That said, it is their progression as a unit, various stringed instruments rising and falling in an ego-less effort to serve the song that has become one of Greensky’s most important dynamics.
Listen to the full album streaming below, and check out our full length review:
Never ones to shy away from big themes, Greensky opens the album with “Miss September,” featuring mandolin player Paul Hoffman showing his introspective side pondering issues of trust while picking a ringing lead. Hoffman dutifully provides a percussive heart for the rest of the band to play off, which they adorn with a circling rhythm that is both rich and light all at once. Though Hoffman’s voice is one of the most emotive and entrancing in the bluegrass world to begin with, the addition of a slight echo gives the world-weary viewpoint of “Past My Prime,” a sense of resignation and significance whose subtlety is another sign of the progression of the band as a whole.
“Run Or Die” has a disturbing effect on listeners, as the deep tones strike subliminal emotional chords in listeners that evoke a primal fight or flight impulse which is hard to deny. On “Room Without A Roof” guitarist Dave Bruzza‘s gruff vocals take and contemplative picking the tempo down and the tone infinitely more tender and confessional. The gentle but persistent ebb and flow of the instrumentation matches the lyrical promise made that “…forever I’ll be waitin’ here for you” perfectly.
For a band known for conveying complex concepts and feelings, the topic of things unsaid is a intriguing one. On “Hold On,” they play against type with sharp, staccato notes that come and go from the ether illustrating the nervous worry at the heart of the composition, but the moments of united jamming and shared chorus prove hopeful and uplifting. Emotions are provoked by the band in so many separate ways, from tempo changes at key moments to ratchet or loosen tension, plaintive howls from the ever expressive Hoffman or the singing nature of drop steel guitarist Anders Beck.
Beck’s long and expressive notes are at the heart of some of Greensky’s most memorable music moments past and and present. On “Living Over,” he seems to sing through his strings during the ostensibly instrumental breaks while banjo player Michael Bont counters with rolling plucked lines that seem to tumble endlessly from the heavens. Once again the willingness to share the focal point adds to the effect of the music as a whole. Luckily for both of them bassist Mike Devol holds down the center of each song with a tone so spellbinding it borders on supernatural.
When Greensky leans more towards the traditional sound of bluegrass, the faster pace and stronger acoustic instruments naturally take the center stage, as on “Fixin’ To Ruin” and album closer “Take Cover.” If and when the band wants to go exploring in the psychedelic end of the spectrum, they have not just the tools, but the affinity to meld the two extremes to an engrossing whole. Somewhere in the center of their varied dimensions, the core of the band expands with each intake of inspiration and exhale of new creation.
The music of Greensky Bluegrass may arrive on studio releases, but their true lives begin on the road, where these songs are sure to find fans eager to add them to the pantheon of favorites from albums past. Shouted, Written Down & Quoted is a snapshot into a band at its prime. One day long from now, Greensky fans will be pondering questions of favorite songs and albums, and once again Greensky has added rich musical fuel sure to stoke the fires of future debates.
Want to win an exclusive private picnic concert from Greensky Bluegrass at Suwannee Hulaween? Enter the contest below…