Night on the Town: Greensky Bluegrass in its own music genre
Greensky Bluegrass is described as a rock band, jam band and bluegrass band.
“We are happy just to be ourselves,” says Anders Beck, who plays Dobro and lap steel in Greensky Bluegrass, in concert, 8 p.m., Jan. 30, Penn’s Peak, Jim Thorpe. Opening the concert is Ghost Light.
Greensky Bluegrass combines elements of all three genres of rock, jam and bluegrass, The band uses traditional acoustic instruments of guitar, mandolin, banjo, Dobro and acoustic bass. Many of the group’s songs lead into long instrumental jams.
The musicians are not afraid to use electronic effects on their instruments, along with an elaborate light show on stage.
A typical show may have covers of songs by Prince, the Grateful Dead, Bruce Springsteen and classic rock artists, as well as traditional bluegrass songs.
Greensky performed at Penn’s Peak in January 2019. The group also played the Mauch Chunk Opera House, Jim Thorpe, in 2011.
“We’re looking forward to coming back to Jim Thorpe,” Beck says in a phone interview.
“We play traditional bluegrass, to rock and roll, to everything. Music doesn’t have to be one thing or another. It can be many things at the same time. That’s what makes it so exciting.
“It is hard to put our music in one box. In the past, we had to do it for promoters and audiences. Now we can be ourselves. As we grow older, we are comfortable being less defined by one particular label. We have become our own label.”
Greensky Bluegrass is a play on words: Green sky is the opposite of bluegrass.
The group began as a three-piece in Kalamazoo, Mich., and began to tour nationally in 2005. The band, at one time doing 200 shows a year, now does 100 or so, to audiences that range in age from 16 to 75.
The career of Greensky Bluegrass got a boost when the group won the Telluride Bluegrass Festival Band competition in 2006. The band has played many music festivals, including Bonaroo. This year, the third annual Camp Greensky Music Festival is presented in Manistee National Forest, Wellston, Mich.
In 2018, Willie Nelson invited all five members of the band on stage in Camden, N.J., to do backing vocals on ”I’ll Fly Away.”
“We create a rock and roll sound from acoustic instruments,” says Beck. “On the Dobro, you can hear the country twang, but we use electronic effects and different amplifiers so it can sound like an electric guitar, an organ, or a spaceship.”
The group’s bass player Mike Devol uses a hybrid bass that is part-acoustic and part-electric.
The other band members are Michael Arlen Bont, banjo; Dave Bruzza, guitar; Mike Devol, acoustic bass, and Paul Hoffman, mandolin. These four also do vocals. Bont, Bruzza and Hoffman are the original members of the Greensky Bluegrass trio.
Beck says the group’s basic sound is that of voices and acoustic instruments: “There is an authenticity that is not made with computers or Auto-Tune.”
Greensky Bluegrass completed its seventh studio album, “All For Money,” last year at Echo Mountain studios, Asheville, N.C. The album opens with psychedelic sounds, includes some jams, and is notable for lyrics that are more complex than usual for bluegrass.
The title track ponders success, asking, “What if we had done it all for money/And nobody even even cared?”
“Cathedral Eyes” begins, “Cathedral eyes felt so alive, laid on the woman painted softly/The masters of Rome should have used her for a muse.”
Says Beck: “We have matured on some levels musically and in songwriting. We are more comfortable making albums. We are able to trust ourselves in our creative process, and we can experiment a little more.”
Tickets: Penn’s Peak box office, 325 Maury Road, Jim Thorpe; pennspeak.com; ticketmaster.com; 800-745-3000