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Greensky Bluegrass plays it right

House of Blues, Boston, January 25, 2018

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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Greensky Bluegrass is one of those bands that difficult to pin down musically. First and foremost, there's bluegrass that anchors their sound. Add to that a dose of string band music and a definite nod to the Grateful Dead plus a dollop of The Beatles on occasion. Not to mention the ever-prominent jam band element.

The Michigan-bred quintet played it pretty straight, staying away from the jamming for a chunk of the first set with a series of short, bluegrass-oriented songs. A second set found Greensky playing more the role of a jam band.

It sure helped to have a band high on musicianship, which was top shelf with Paul Hoffman on mandolin and Michael Arlen Bont on banjo the standouts. They simply and efficiently powered the songs time after time. There was a bite and intensity to their playing, which served the band exceedingly well.

Hoffman and acoustic guitarist Dave Bruzza both assumed lead vocals to good effect with Hoffman, who handles most of the songwriting, taking the bulk of the vocals as well.

When the quintet jammed on, the music became part of and matched the fabric of the song. There seemed to be a purpose to the extended play. Perhaps by the end of the two-set, 140-minute show, it grew a tad long, but Greensky always played with a sense of direction.

Greensky Bluegrass may not be your prototypical bluegrass band - not unusual these days - but 18 years in, the band seems to have played it right in following its own musical muses.

Fellow Michiganders Billy Strings, who have received some acclaim, opened with a good set. The group didn't match the musical prowess or songs of the headliners, and it was hard to figure when one song ended and another began. Perhaps a bit of a breather would have served them better.

Strings, who sat in with Greensky for a spell, is a good singer, and there was a reason the group is on the rise.