What constitutes bluegrass music? Does it need to be all acoustic? Can it ever be electric? Does it always include a banjo, a mandolin, a dobro and fiddles? If it ventures into jam band territory, is it still bluegrass?
The bluegrass question is one that the immensely talented Kalamazoo, Mich. band Greensky Bluegrass has been grappling with and answering since the members started 18 years ago.
The answer? Sort of simple: The band has been playing bluegrass on its own terms, which means "mostly" bluegrass. The members are virtuosos in the genre. Live shows are often transcendent musical experiences. When the band takes off, it can rock like a countrified hurricane.
Greensky Bluegrass include Anders Beck on dobro, Michael Arlen Bont on banjo, guitarist Dave Bruzza, Mike Devol on upright bass and Paul Hoffman on mandolin. The band's last album, 2016's Shouted, Written Down & Quoted, was produced by Steve Berlin of Los Lobos. Recorded in Asheville, N.C., the band is set to release its upcoming album, All For Money, on Jan. 18, 2019.
Today, we premiere the driving "Do It Alone." File this one under: "mostly" bluegrass.
In an e-mail, Hoffman, the principle songwriter and singer for the band, had this to say about the song:
"I'd been trying to write a windows-down rock and roll tune for a while. I got out an old guitar of mine, re-strung it, and immediately spit the song out. It's meant to be an anthem.
I ask myself, "Why do I do it alone?" It's because I've got a whole room of thousands singing at the top of their lungs with me. Whenever I write something emotional that might be difficult to sing, I'm reminded of the fact the crowd is there. Hopefully, it's a reminder for other people as well and we all have something to chant together."
One important thing to know about Greensky Bluegrass — they don't need a drummer to rock, and "Do It Alone," is exemplary of that. From the start, the song simmers right below the boiling surface, picking up along the way, as solos trade, ambient guitar noise colors the background until a "real" bluegrass guitar solo kicks the song into overdrive.