An independent band nationally-recognized for their live show, Greensky Bluegrass defy the boundaries of acoustic music with their self-produced fourth studio effort, Handguns, released on October 4.
This new studio offering is a brave expression of what separates their original music from the rest of the bluegrass genre. For years, while the Kalamazoo, MI band has been gaining recognition for their high energy live show, Handguns proves that they can handle themselves in the studio as well.
Recent internet chatter would have you believe that the entire music industry is lost in a vast and inescapable dust bowl; everything that was once thriving and sustainable has now dried into a mere husk of what it once was. But lest we forget, bands used to make their living on the road, playing in front of new audiences every night. Albums were something that were recorded in between tours and then sold on the road to help keep gas in the tank. It’s the way it was and it looks like the way it might become, but the music never stops.
Handguns was recorded in between tours this winter as the band holed up in a studio in Lansing, committing the songs straight-to-tape on the exact recording console that originally birthed Lynyrd Skynyrd’s infamous track "Free Bird” decades earlier. Matching the warmth of the analog sound, vintage microphones were utilized alongside state-of-the-art studio equipment to create a truly blended and artful sonic experience.
This overlap of traditional and forward-thinking runs throughout most every aspect of Greensky Bluegrass. The opening cut is titled "Don't Lie", and the result of "Handguns" is just that, a collection of songs that speak true. Greensky doesn't boast to know it all, but they don't restrain, letting the listener in on the trials and triumphs of their journey.
"Should have been a farmer and blamed it on the weather, with soiled hands and a tired back to show for my efforts," sings Hoffman on the album's title track. Modest maybe, but as the listener continues, they are relieved that the band did not trade their instruments for plows or cubicles.
Greensky has continued to gain national momentum since they won the Telluride Bluegrass Festival’s coveted Band Competition in 2006 and have been invited to play at this summer’s Northwest String Summit, Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival and NPR’s Mountain Stage, while also playing at Bonnaroo, Bumbershoot and The Hangout Festivals. They’re a bluegrass band but they’re not. Bluegrass doesn’t have distortion, or horns for that matter. Handguns does.
Of course, none of this happened overnight or without sacrifice. Greensky Bluegrass is just as much a grit of the asphalt band as they are a salt of the earth band, having played over 160 shows nationwide, every year, for the last six years. It was by winning over folks on the band’s never-ending tour that got them where they are today – not by a label, syndicated radio play or being on the shelves at big box stores.
As a bonus for all, Greensky Bluegrass is giving away half of Handguns for free. This five-song Handguns EP is available on the Greensky Bluegrass website for anyone who wants to listen.
The motive? To be heard. For musicians, the model has changed with satellite radio where the F word flies free and name-your-own-price record releases. One thing remains true, however: when the music is great, people will listen.