Over the past several decades, the definition of bluegrass has continually expanded from its origins with Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys. The new album Big Trouble from The Dang-It Bobbys, which hit shelves September 20th, further stretches that definition. This album has all the makings of a time-honored Appalachian recording, with banjos and other long-established bluegrass instruments being combined with spoons and hambone. However, The Dang-It Bobbys create their own spin on tradition by also incorporating flutes, clarinets, percussion, kalimba, and the melodica – a harmonica and keyboard hybrid.
This is no cookie-cutter project. The band has drawn from many different musical influences to produce this all-original recording. In fact, lead vocalist Kris Bauman wrote or co-authored all of the thirteen tracks. A song concerning the failed bribery of a Mexican policeman due to poor memory of high school Spanish skills is not the typical focus for a folk album. However, a title tracks like this helps bring listeners closer to lyricists. Big Trouble also has an intriguing Spanish music feel, complete with some lyrics in Español.
Some of tracks included on this project seem to be in the vein of Appalachian music while others fit well into the realm of Americana. Instrumentals Whiskey Strut and Roadkill Jerky are two that have a traditional feel. Whiskey Strut is played in a light and bouncy style, and should appeal to fans of earlier eras of bluegrass. Roadkill Jerky is an interesting banjo tune that includes a harmony part and an atypical chord progression.
Some tracks exhibit singing styles reminiscent of other musical genres. Songs like My Michelle and Heading Out have these more progressive sounds. Emo and indie bands like Dashboard Confessional and Death Cab for Cutie are examples of groups which seem to have influenced Bauman.
With the exception of a couple instrumentals, almost everything about this album is contemporary. This thirteen track, thirty-seven minute compilation of tunes sits somewhere between the sound of a bluegrass jam band and emo-flavored indie rock. In fact, if the bluegrass sub-genre Blemo existed (Bluegrass/Emo), this would be a good fit. Nevertheless, the extended use of percussion and instruments commonly associated with other genres makes this album unique.
This album has the potential to appeal to a wide array of listeners, especially those who have an appreciation for Americana styles. While The Dang-it Bobbys vary from traditional numbers, musicianship throughout the record is solid. Each track resets the listener’s mind and allows a new journey to occur.
If you’re tired of 1-4-5 drive, you might want to take a listen or check them out at a live concert sometime, especially if you happen to be in the Brooklyn, NY area where the band performs frequently.
More information regarding the Dang-it Bobbys can be found at www.thedang-itbobbys.com.