music / Columns

Jam Central Station: Greensky Bluegrass – Shouted, Written Down, and Quoted Review

December 10, 2016 | Posted by Jeff Modzelewski

Greensky Bluegrass has spent the past decade rising to be part of the cream of the modern bluegrass crop. Not only do they put on exciting live performances that mix great showmanship with a heavy dose of jam-band inspired unpredictability, they’ve set themselves apart through their excellent songwriting. While studio albums often aren’t considered required listening for most bands in the broad “jam” category, Greenksy Bluegrass has consistently released exceptional studio work. Since it’s release 2 years ago, I’ve consistently revisited If Sorrows Swim and I consider it one of the best studio albums released by any band in recent years. Because of that excellence in their recent studio work (also including other previous efforts such as the forward-looking Handguns as well as the older Five Interstates) I had very high hopes for their recent release of Shouted, Written Down, and Quoted. While it’s too early to tell if I’m going to revisit this one with the same consistency of If Sorrows Swim this album holds its own among the rest of Greenky Bluegrass’s catalog.

While the album holds a similar course to If Sorrows Swim (at least moreso than Handguns), Shouted, Written Down, and Quoted has plenty of unique elements and highlights. “Miss September” starts off the album introspectively, with the lyrics stating “I think I’m gonna miss September, but I’m leaving anyway. I’ll probably write you a letter, can’t imagine what I’d say.” Conflict and loss is a common theme for Greensky Bluegrass, even in their more upbeat tunes, and this one is no exception. “Past My Prime” has a solid muted guitar start and more of a stream-of-consciousness lyrical feel to it. The band does a great job of building a great musical bed underneath the lyrics including having instruments weave in and out of their riffs and fills around each other. That type of depth is present throughout the album (and throughout most of GSBG’s work) and is a huge part of what sets them apart. “While Waiting” does a great lyrically of laying out the stress of making a difficult decision early on with the line of “I’m totally unsure, I’d just rather not not know anymore.”

The band hits a solid foot-stomping not with “Run Or Die,” providing the first real kick to an album that starts of in a more mellow groove. Great solo work is present all around on this album as well, particularly with some nice guitar runs that can easily be extended in a live setting. There’s a clear breakdown in the middle of the song that can be expanded on as well if they choose. “Room Without A Roof” is our first opportunity on the album to hear Dave Bruzza sing, and he delivers another tune with his more traditional bluegrass sound. I always appreciate the fact that GSBG relies so heavily on Paul Hoffman’s vocals but are able to insert Bruzza in a few times an album to switch things up. Those songs are rarely album highlights for me, but they’re nice interludes to break up Hoffman’s work.

“Hold On” is a solid middle of the album tune, not a stand out track but it includes some good mandolin and banjo work and keeps a fast pace. “Merely Avoiding” keeps up the pace but is a call back to earlier songs on the album about leaving. These tracks lead into “Living Over,” one of the best songs on the album with a great intro, solid build, and excellent work by the band overall. This was the first track I heard off the album and it’s immediately catchy but also deep enough to keep you engaged. This is another song with room for expansion live, as the guitar and especially the dobro can really build something off of this base. Beck does a great job just laying little notes and fills underneath the verse on this one to add some great flavor. At 7 minutes this is the longest track on the album by far, and they take advantage of that time to add some longer soloing that isn’t present on elsewhere.

“More of Me” is more of a singer/songwriter style than a bluegrass song. It was a good choice to slow things down after “Living Over,” and this is a solid ballad. They keep it from getting plodding by avoiding a verse-chorus-verse pattern and adding instrumental interludes throughout the song. I have to think that, despite being a song that relies heavily on vocals, this song was written collaboratively. The parts flow together extremely well on the track. “Fixin’ To Ruin” brings back the bluegrass on a short, punchy song, and Bruzza’s “Take Cover” closes out the album with a very old-time feel. The resonator guitar also makes one more appearance, which again gives the song an older era feel. My only complaint on this one was the fact that they closed the album out with another Bruzza song even though he only sang 2 on the album. This could have been moved after “Living Over” and they could’ve had the album close out with “More of Me,” which feels like more of a final song on an album.

There are plenty of bluegrass bands out there that can pick from dusk until dawn. The number of bluegrass bands that can write an album of excellent songs, however, is much lower. Greensky Bluegrass doesn’t write songs with the song is a vehicle for each member to get a verse to do some classic bluegrass picking. They write songs that stand up as excellent writing with lyrical and musical depth. They offer something very different than other modern bluegrass bands, and that’s a big reason why they’ve continued to gain popularity. This album is another big notch for the band to build upon.

Summer Camp announces 2017 info
After speculation that Summer Camp could be leaving it’s traditional home, the festival announced that they’ve struck a deal with Three Sisters Park and will be returning in 2017. The festival will again run over Memorial Day weekend, from May 25-28, in Chillicothe, IL. Lineup details should be released very soon.

Lockn’ announces 2017 lineup
Lockn’ rolled out their initial 2017 lineup. 2016 will be a tough year to follow, but they have a great initial announcement. There are highlights everywhere, including The Avett Brothers, moe., String Cheese Incident, Gov’t Mule, Widespread Panic, Greensky Bluegrass, Phil Lesh & Friends, John Butler Trio, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, and many others. I really don’t know how they’re gonna pack so much amazing music into one weekend. Should be an excellent time.

Dark Star Jubilee announces lineup
Dark Star Jubilee will return to Legend Valley over Memorial Day weekend in 2017. The festival will continue to include three full shows from Dark Star Orchestra. The 2017 lineup will also include Greensky Bluegrass, 2 sets from Hot Tuna (acoustic and electric), Keller Willams KWahtro, David Nelson Band, Rumpke Mountain Boys, and others.

Strings & Sol
December 9-13
New Sapphire
Puerto Morelos, Mexico
Yonder MOuntain String Band, Greensky Bluegrass, Railroad Earth, Leftover Salmon, The Infamous Stringdusters, Keller & The Keels, Keller Williams’ Grateful Grass

Jam Cruise
January 20-25
Sailing from Miami, FL
The Original Meters, moe., GRiZ, Galactic, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, Benevento Russo Duo, Lettuce, Kamasi Washinton, The Revivalists, The Motet, Beats Antique

Los Muertos Con Queso
January 25-28
Riviera Maya, Mexico
The String Cheese Incident, Bill Kreutzmann & Bob Weir with Dave Schools, Jeff Chimenti, and Tom Hamilton, Chris Robinson Brotherhood

Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds: Three Concerts On The Beach
February 23-25
Riviera Maya, Mexico

Winter Wondergrass Colorado
February 26-27
Steamboat, CO
Railroad Earth, Leftover Salmon, Elephant Revival, Infamous Stringdusters, Sam Bush Band, Fruition, Brothers Comatose, Steep Canyon Rangers, Billy Strings

Panic En La Playa
February 27-March 3
Hard Rock Hotel
Riviera Maya, Mexico
Widespread Panic, Orgone, Southern Soul Assembly, Playa All Stars

Winter Wondergrass California
March 31-April 2
Olympic Valley, CA
Greensky Bluegrass, Yonder Mountain String Band, Leftover Salmon, The Infamous Stringdusters, Sam Bush Band, Hot Buttered Rum, Fruition

Wanee Festival
April 20-22
Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park
Live Oak, FL
Bob Weir, Widespread Panic, Trey Anastasio Band, Gov’t Mule, Leftover Salmon, Blackberry Smoke, Matisyahu, JJ Grey & Mofro

Sweetwater 420 Festival
April 21-23
Centennial Park
Atlanta, GA
Widespread Panic, Trey Anastasio Band, Ween, Lettuce, Slightly Stoopid, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, Anders Osborne, Dark Star Orchestra, Twiddle

Summer Camp
May 25-28
Three Sisters Park
Chillicothe, IL

Dark Star Jubilee
May 26-28
Legend Valley
Thornville, OH
Dark Star Orchestra (x3), Greensky Bluegrass, Hot Tuna (acoustic and electric), Keller Williams and KWhatro, Rumpke Mountain Boys

June 8-11
Manchester, TN

Mountain Jam
June 16-18
Hunter Mountain, NY
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Steve Miller Band, Peter Frampton, Gary Clark Jr., Michael Franti & Spearhead, St. Paul & The Broken Bones, Elephant Revival, Shovels & Rope, The Revivalists, The Infamous Stringdusters

Electric Forest I
June 22-25
Rothbury, MI

Electric Forest II
June 29-July 2
Rothbury, MI

Northwest String Summit
July 13-16
Horning’s Hideout
North Plains, OR

Floydfest 17: Freedom
July 26-30
Floyd, VA
Michael Franti & Spearhead, St. Paul & Broken Bones, Railroad Earth, Leftover Salmon, Shovels & Rope, Turkuaz, TUAK, Fruition

August 24-27
Arrington, VA
The Avett Brothers, Gov’t Mule, Widespread Panic, The String Cheese Incident, Umphrey’s McGee, moe, Greensky Bluegrass, John Butler Trio, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, TAUK

Thanks again for stopping by. I’ll be back next week with more jam. Until then, check me out on Facebook and Twitter for up to the minute concert announcements. Until next week, Jam On!