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Greensky Bluegrass to perform at Penn's Peak

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When you hear the term bluegrass, it's easy for names such as Bill Monroe, Del McCoury, Doc Watson and Sam Bush, among many others, to first come to mind.

But in today’s music scene, the term encompasses a lot more than the sounds of traditional gospel songs, simple but catchy I, IV, V chord progressions, twangy banjos and imagery of the old south.

The past two decades, the bluegrass scene has shaped an entire new perspective, while not necessarily straying from traditional influences, but by adding new and uplifting jam elements, refreshing something familiar with a new twist.

One band that’s helped modernize the genre, and whom many refer to as the style of “jamgrass,” is Greensky Bluegrass, a stringed quintet from Kalamazoo, Mich.

The five-piece band will be making its Penn’s Peak debut on Jan. 26 at the venue in Jim Thorpe.

Formed in 2000, Greensky takes a modern approach to bluegrass music with heavy influences from various musical backgrounds. The band is comprised of five-string banjo, acoustic guitar, upright bass, mandolin and dobro.

In summer 2006, Greensky won the Telluride Bluegrass Festival band competition, earning a spot on the main stage the following year. Soon thereafter, it released its second studio album produced by Tim Carbone of Railroad Earth, and that’s when things really started heating up.

In November 2007, the band released its first live recording “Live at Bell’s,” which document two concerts at the Bell’s Brewery in its hometown of Kalamazoo. Shortly after its release, dobro player Anders Beck of Wayword Sons joined the band, replacing Al Bates. The current Greensky lineup is Paul Hoffman, vocals and mandolin; Dave Bruzza, guitar; Beck, dobro; Mike Devol, upright bass; and Michael Arlen Bont, banjo.

In August 2008, Greensky released its third studio album “Five Interstates,” which was also produced by Carbone, a resident of Stroudsburg. Carbone’s band, Railroad Earth, formed just across the Delaware River in Stillwater, N.J., and often performs in the Pocono area.

Greensky released a two-volume live series, “All Access,” in 2010, featuring live performances in their entirety.

Its fourth, and most critically acclaimed album, “Handguns,” made its debut on Billboard’s Bluegrass Charts at No. 3 in October 2011, spending nine weeks on the chart and landing at No. 33 for 2011 on Billboard’s Year End Bluegrass Chart.

Two more studio albums followed: “If Sorrows Swim” in 2014 and “Shouted, Written Down & Quoted” in 2016.

The band has been touring relentlessly the past several years, making its way from coast-to-coast, through the north and south. Over the years, Greensky has had many on-stage collaborations with artists including Phil Lesh (of the Grateful Dead), The String Cheese Incident and McCoury, and shared bills with Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, Peter Rowan and the Tony Rice Quarter, The Avett Brothers and many more.

Some of its most notable shows this year will be at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colo., one of the most distinguished venues in the country, and will return to Bonnaroo in Manchester, Tenn. – one of the largest music festivals in the world.

Supporting Greensky at Penn’s Peak is Fruition, a stringed quintet from Portland, Ore., which will be opening most of the shows on this tour.

Tickets for the show are $18 in advance and $23 day-of-show. Doors open at 7 p.m. with an 8 start time.

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Christopher Holland

Christopher Holland

Christopher Holland is a researcher for Lehigh Valley Business and blogs on arts and entertainment in the region.

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