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Vootie presents Greensky Bluegrass with special guest Tom Hamilton’s American Babies on Wednesday, November 11th 8Pm at Bozeman’s FaultLine North. Tickets for the show are $25 plus fees and on sale now at Cactus Records and online at www.vootie.com.
“There’s this great duality to our band,” reflects Greensky Bluegrass mandolinist, vocalist, and songwriter Paul Hoffman. “We’re existing in a few different places at once: we’re a bluegrass band and a rock band, we’re song-driven and interested in extended improvisation.” “We play acoustic instruments,” adds dobro player Anders Beck, “but we put on a rock’n’roll show. We play in bigger clubs and theaters, there’s a killer light show, and we’re as loud as your favorite rock band. It’s not easy to make five acoustic instruments sound like this – it’s something we’ve spent years working on.”
From these seemingly irreconcilable elements, the five members of Greensky Bluegrass have forged a defiant, powerful sound that, while rooted in classic stringband Americana, extends outwards with a fearless, exploratory zeal. The tension and release between these components – tradition and innovation, prearranged songs and improvisation, acoustic tones and electric volume – is what makes them so thrillingly dynamic, in concert and on record. “In theory,” Hoffman explains, “greensky is the complete opposite of bluegrass. So, by definition, we are contrasting everything that isn’t bluegrass with everything that is.” That their sound is so seamless, so organic, is testament to Greensky’s enduring vision and tireless dedication. Since their first rumblings at the start of the millennium, they have emerged as relentless road warriors, creating a captivating live show while at the same time developing a knack for evocative, disarming songcraft.
From their unlikely base of Kalamazoo, Michigan (home of the original Gibson Mandolin-Guitar factory), Greensky – which also includes banjoist Michael Arlen Bont and bassist Michael Devol – arrived at their unique take on the bluegrass tradition by working from the outside inward. “I found bluegrass through the back door,” Beck says, “through the Jerry Garcia route. That’s how I got to listening to Bill Monroe and Earl Scruggs. It’s really interesting how many people in our generation got into acoustic music through that channel.”
By playing up to 175 shows a year, mostly in rock clubs and more open-minded festivals like Telluride, Austin City Limits, Bonnaroo, and the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, Greensky Bluegrass became a word-of-mouth underground sensation, cultivating a devoted legion of fans entranced both by the band’s improvisational acumen and the quality of their songwriting. Then and now, despite their wide-ranging musical interests, Greensky continues to work within the structure of a classic five-man stringband. “The cool thing about a bluegrass band or, really, any drummerless band,” Hoffman explains, “is that it’s like acoustic chamber music — challenging, exciting, and fun to play.”
2015 is shaping up to be a monumental year for Philadelphia-based musician Tom Hamilton, whose American Babies have returned to the studio to record their latest LP; a follow-up to 2013’s Knives and Teeth.
Invigorated by a busy and exciting 2014 that found him on the road with a number of touring acts, Hamilton can be considered “the hardest working person in show business,” and looks forward to funneling that creative energy into American Babies’ newest studio effort. “Everything that’s happened since October 2013 has been surreal,” says Hamilton, “the reception of Knives and Teeth was overwhelming. The tours throughout 2014 were all so fun and exciting. And then there were the incredible opportunities that arose playing with Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, Phil Lesh, and Bill Kreutzmann, as well as reuniting with Clay Parnell on stage, which all had a huge influence on the narrative of my year. I’m excited to lock myself back in the studio and see how all of these events and new experiences shape the next batch of songs.”
Fearlessly blending a passion for songwriting with the electronica-based improv rock that Hamilton and Parnell developed with Brothers Past, American Babies are pioneering a new sound – fusing serious songs with an open-ended sense of adventure that encourages full-group improvisation in the live setting.
“Representing the genre for a whole new generation.” – Rolling Stone
"Taking chances - and pushing the boundaries of a proud tradition - are what mark Greensky Bluegrass' sound, which tips its cap to backwoods-jazz virtuosity while holding on to a rock 'n' roll edge." - San Francisco Chronicle