Hitch Your Ride To These Rising Stars
If you have been reading this website for a while, you might recall that a year ago I fell in love with the hip-hop bluegrass group Gangstagrass. Our love affair continued over the weekend at Johnny D’s where they appeared in support of their latest release, American Music.
Nobody was more surprised than the band when the album debuted at #5 on the Billboard bluegrass chart! They deserve to be known for more than the theme song for the television show Justified, and maybe now they will be!
Hip-hop bluegrass? It seems like a strange combination until you hear it and realize it’s a match made in heaven, at least when performed by Gangstagrass. I listen to their albums repeatedly, but nothing can compare to their live show.
The music itself is bluegrass, while the lyrics are both sung and rapped. Some songs start as bluegrass, then morph into rap before returning to bluegrass. Others are traditional, such as ‘Will the Circle Be Unbroken’ and ‘Man of Constant Sorrow’.
Gangstagrass is composed of founder Rench on guitar, Dan Whitener on banjo, Landry McMeans on dobro, and Melody Berger on fiddle, with all contributing vocals, as well as rappers Dolio the Sleuth and R-Son the Voice of Reason. They are all excellent musicians, but I have to single out Landry – how can you not love a woman who plays dobro wearing fishnet stockings, cowboy boots, a very short skirt, and a tank top!
As you can see, the instruments are traditional bluegrass instruments, missing only the mandolin which I have not seen any of them play. The lyrics are a mix of bluegrass and rap – some of the lyrics are explicit and not for the faint of heart. One thing I do know about this band is that, despite the ‘gangster’ in their name, they are far from being gangsters or what one would think are stereotypical rappers (although R-Son and Dolio have reinforced for me the fact that stereotyping is rarely accurate and hurts everyone).
The way they interact on stage is fantastic, from R-Son hanging his head on Dan’s shoulder to Dolio grimacing (in a good way) at some terrific riff emanating from Rench’s guitar, Melody’s fiddle, Dan’s banjo or Landry’s dobro. It is clear to me that they truly like each other; they seem to have at least as much fun performing as the audience has watching!
The setlist for this show consisted of both old and new music, and included some of my favorites. ‘Peaches’, ‘All for One’, ‘Rainstorm in Kentucky’, and ‘Keep Talking’ all made it into this show. I was singing right along with them – or at least mouthing the words since I would not dare sing unless it was a group singalong! How can you not like a song that asks ‘If you don’t drive fast/Don’t ride with me/If you don’t like my peaches/Don’t shake my tree’, especially as sung by Melody???
The energy in the room was off the charts, although to be honest I was right at the stage and did not turn around to watch the audience unless Dolio or R-Son danced their way through the crowd while rapping. I could feel it though and I know the band could too. They were on fire for this show, a fact I doubt was lost on anyone.
There were many people in the audience for this show who knew the band only because they were fans of Justified. They happily parted with their money to take home a piece of the band, and left as huge fans!
Posted on April 22, 2015, in concert photos, concert reviews, music, Uncategorized and tagged Bluegrass music, boston, concert photos, concert review, Dan Whitener, Dolio The Sleuth, Gangstagrass, hip hop bluegrass, hip-hop music, Johnny D's, Landry McMeans, Melody Berger, R-Son the Voice of Reason, Rench. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.