January 27, 2023 The Anthem Doors 5:30 pm

Greensky Bluegrass

Railroad Earth

Jan 27 (Fri)

Doors 5:30 pm All Ages

Tickets

Venue Information

The Anthem

202-265-0930

901 Wharf Street SW
Washington, DC 20024

Greensky Bluegrass

Official Band Site

Since their 2000 formation in Kalamazoo, MI, the quintet—Anders Beck [dobro], Michael Arlen Bont [banjo], Dave Bruzza [guitar], Mike Devol [upright bass], and Paul Hoffman [mandolin]—have unassumingly progressed into a phenomenon on their own terms with the undying support of a devout audience. Rolling back and forth across North America on successive tours, they recently sold out 3 nights at Red Rocks, a feat unheard of in their genre.

During 2019, All For Money marked their second #1 debut on the Billboard Top Bluegrass Albums Chart and third straight Top 3 entry. They’ve also earned critical acclaim from Billboard, Parade, NPR, and Rolling Stone who hailed them as “representing the genre for a whole new generation.”

As always, the band embraces tradition while ushering bluegrass forward on their eighth full-length offering, Stress Dreams. “Greensky is and always has been very unique in our world,” observes Paul. “We put our love, energy, and focus into what we appreciate about our music. We come together as a band in a way that’s organic. We take a lot of pride in how we grow and challenge each other too. We’re maturing together. I think we get more Greensky all of the time.”

They took advantage of the time to become “more Greensky” in 2020. After touring ceased in the face of the global pandemic, the band hunkered down and compiled demos individually at first, sharing emails and voice notes. In July 2020, they got together for the first time in four months, dedicating rehearsals to the development of the new material. Once circumstances safely permitted, they recorded what would become Stress Dreams during a session in Gilford, VT and two sessions in Asheville, NC. The band co-produced with frequent collaborator “and old friend” Dominic John Davis (Jack White’s touring and studio bassist) and “wizard engineer” and grammy-winning producer Glenn Brown. They preserved the hallmarks of their sound while widening its expanse.

“It didn’t feel like we were squeezing this project into the schedule,” says Mike. “The lack of gigs gave us the freedom to get together solely to work on this. It was a relaxed environment. There wasn’t the pressure of time; the songs got space to breathe.”

“For all of our records, we always take more time to explore and experiment,” Paul elaborates. “We finished ideas and kept going, thinking everything all the way through. We really put energy into each specific song and made it the best it could be.”

The single “Grow Together” blossoms into a patchwork of nimble banjo, acoustic guitar, and mandolin as the dobro (routed through a Marshall amplifier) teems with fuzzy heart. Meanwhile, Paul delivers an intimate live vocal performance capped off by the hook—“That we can grow old together if we can find the time”— and an evocative electric guitar solo.

“It was the first tune I had written in a really long time,” states Paul. “My daughter was just born. When she was five weeks old, I sat down on the floor with her and spit this one out. It was an appreciation for my wife and what it meant to become a father. I had never been so moved in the studio as I was when we recorded it. A lot of my songs have come from an open place of serious personal emotions, but this one was different. Instead of fighting against weakness and pain, it’s romantic, happy, heartfelt, and uplifting.”

The opener “Absence of Reason” borders on mystical with its psychedelically-wrung whale moans on the dobro and JJ Cale-inspired fleet-fingered chicken-pickin’, making for what the guys agree is a “positive creative experiment.” Meanwhile, “guitarmonies” uphold the towering refrain of “Monument”—co-written by Anders and Chris Gelbuda.

“‘Monument’ meant more once quarantine happened,” recalls Anders. “It’s about how our lives changed so much when we were locked up at home. We were trying to harness the feeling of everything being taken away in an instant. At the same time, the energy reflects the feeling of getting back on stage and playing in front of 10,000 people post-COVID.”

Penned by Mike Devol, the eight-minute title track “Stress Dreams” leans into a fascinating 6/8 time signature underscored by piano and an ethereal mandolin-led crescendo. “It was quite literally about having weird dreams,” says Mike. “There’s a circular pattern to being stressed and repeating your thought process. In our job, we operate with some level of predictability. Our schedule is booked out a year in advance. Once the Pandemic hit, we didn’t know when we would see each other and play again. Now we are playing again, but we don’t know if it’s going to be taken away in a moment’s notice. It gives added value to the present moment. To make music with my friends for five weeks was such a gift. A lot of the album speaks to this.”

The closer “Reasons To Stay” ends the album on a lighthearted and funky note with its surprisingly sexy climax as Paul assures, “You’re just made of reasons to stay.” “It’s about the physical attributes of the person you’re spending the night with,” Mike goes on. “Paul sings it way sexier than I ever could. If my wife asks, it’s a love song,” he laughs.

In the end, the story of Greensky Bluegrass just keeps getting better as well.

“There’s a duality to this band,” Anders leaves off. “On one hand, we improvise and go outside the box on stage. The studio brings out our artistic side. We grow every time we make a record. I hope you hear and see the evolution.”

“We just can’t wait to play shows, hug our friends, and play music with other musicians we love and respect,” Paul concludes. “Besides, we’ve got 13 new songs to add to the setlist!”

Railroad Earth

Official Band Site

A brother leaves this world too soon. A trip down U.S. Highway 61 ends in a deluge of biblical proportions. A retreat to the Big Easy results in its own flood of inspiration. A new chapter begins. These moments and many more fade in and out of focus on Railroad Earth’s seventh full-length album, All For The Song.

The celebrated New Jersey quintet—Todd Sheaffer [lead vocals, acoustic guitar], Tim Carbone [violins, electric guitar, vocals], John Skehan [mandolin, bouzouki, piano, vocals], Carey Harmon [drums, percussion, vocals], and Andrew Altman [upright & electric bass]—chronicle the twists and turns of this journey through eloquent songcraft, bluegrass soul, and rock ‘n’ roll spirit.

“Perhaps, it represents the journey we’ve been on for twenty years as a band and as a family,” observes Carey.

“I will always remember these sessions as a time of healing and reflection,” adds Andrew.

“What threads the record together?” ponders Todd. “Nostalgia, sadness, and a lot of great moments to sing along to.”

For over two decades, Railroad Earth has captivated audiences with gleefully unpredictable live shows and eloquent and elevated studio output. The group introduced its signature sound on 2001’s The Black Bear Sessions. Between selling out hallowed venues such as Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, CO, they’ve launched the longstanding annual Hangtown Music Festival in Placerville, CA and Hillberry: The Harvest Moon Festival in Ozark, AR—both running for a decade-plus. Sought after by legends, the John Denver Estate tapped them to put lyrics penned by the late John Denver to music on the 2019 vinyl EP, Railroad Earth: The John Denver Letters. Beyond tallying tens of millions of streams, the collective have earned widespread critical acclaim from David Fricke of Rolling Stone, American Songwriter, Glide Magazine, and NPR who assured, “Well-versed in rambling around, as you might expect from a band named after a Jack Kerouac poem, the New Jersey-built jam-grass engine Railroad Earth has let no moss grow under its rustic wheels.”

In 2018, Railroad Earth bid farewell to founding member Andy Goessling who passed away from cancer. His shadow loomed over the process as the guys retreated to New Orleans for the first time to record.

“From the beginning, the vision was more than just the music,” states Todd. “We looked at this like a ‘destination’ record. Our past records were all made close to home or, in fact, at home. Andy’s passing was very much in the center of our thoughts and our hearts in the writing and recording of this album. Things were so shaken up that we thought it’d be a benefit to go away from all of the distractions and be together. In New Orleans, there is great food and there are great spirits to be shared. I’ll leave the music part of the equation for others to judge, but we surely succeeded in making the bonding part of the vision come to fruition!”

Another first, they recorded with Anders Osborne behind the board as producer. It might’ve been the gumbo, but the guys seamlessly absorbed the homegrown flavors of the Big Easy by osmosis, incorporating horns, blues harmonica, and the producer’s own perspective and guitar playing.

“His enthusiasm is contagious,” exclaims Carey. “There are five producers in this band, so a strong-willed voice from the outside is usually pretty essential. Anders was the voice.”

Todd agrees, “He brought a pure and striving soul, unforgettable laugh, rich palette of emotion, a great stash of guitars and amps, philosophical driftings, freedom, unguarded honesty, warmth, and love.”

The band paved the way for the album with “The Great Divide,” “It’s So Good,” and “Runnin’ Wild.” Beyond those initial singles, the record picks up steam on “Blues Highway.” Over dusty acoustic guitar, hummable fiddle, and a banjo pluck, Todd recounts a particular road trip down Rte. 61, which ended in “the most downpour of rain I’ve ever experienced.”

“We had a show in Natchez, so I decided to make my own adventure out of the trip,” he recalls. “I flew to New Orleans, rented a car, and drove up the Blues Highway like a tourist, stopping and touring the old plantations and blues honky-tonks. I was smelling the river and the refineries. On my return to New Orleans, I drove into what might’ve been a hurricane with intense and terrifying lightning to boot. In the dead of night, I gave up trying to inch down the road, pulled over, and waited it out. The trip seemed like a parallel for my life at the time and inspired the song.”

The epic “Driftin’ The Bardo” hinges on one of the final recordings of Andy on ukulele and high-strung guitar. It slips into a poignant piano-driven crescendo punctuated by cinematic strings.

“As we were recording it, ‘The Bardo’ came to represent Andy’s transition,” reveals Tim. “It was an emotional experience.”

Clocking over eight minutes, “Showers of Rain” unfurls as a “psychedelic excursion” complete with an improvised jam, guitar solo by Anders, a dreamy string section, and imagery “inspired by a strange 19th century novel called Green Mansions.”

“We all have those moments when we feel visitations and remember loved ones we’ve lost,” Todd observes. “In New Orleans, Andrew shared with us the night previous he’d had a visit from Andy in his sleep. At my house, we have a cardinal who taps on the window, and my wife think It’s her mom. These are the thoughts in the middle of the song where I ask, ‘Was that really you?’”

The album culminates on the wistful “All For The Song” as the final refrain, “All of the heartache, all that’s gone wrong, all for the moment, all for the song,” rings out before a harmonica passage.

“It’s a bit painful to contemplate or talk about, to be honest—as are a couple other tunes on this record,” confesses Todd. “The song says way more than enough, I believe.”

In the end, Railroad Earth brings listeners closer than ever on All For The Song.

“We want audiences to connect to the album,” Carey leaves off. “We hope they’re as moved by the music as we were making it.”