The Deadly Gentlemen’s third release Roll Me, Tumble Me is out this summer from Rounder Records. The Boston-based group has a rootsy, folk influenced acoustic sound using traditional bluegrass instrumentation, but the music is harder to describe. More progressive than traditional… hipster bluegrass or old-timey yet new-grassy… or just good acoustic music.
In addition to writing the music and lyrics for album’s 10 songs, banjo player Greg Liszt also produced the album, with the help of Deadly Gents’ Stash Wyslouch, and Mike Barnett handling vocal production. Greg’s musical background includes touring and recording with fellow-Bostonians, Crooked Still, and working for The Boss, Bruce Springsteen, as a part of the band for The Seeger Sessions tour. Liszt also went to Yale and holds a Ph.D. in molecular biology from MIT.
All of these Gentlemen have deep influences in the progressive bluegrass world. Double bassist and vocalist Sam Grisman is the son of David Grisman, one of the alt-bluegrass world’s beloved mandolin players. Sam has played since he was a teenager, and clearly learned from some of the best in the music business.
On fiddle and lead vocals is Mike Barnett who played as a child and toured with bluegrass legend Jesse McReynolds as a teen. Barnett studied at Boston’s Berklee School of Music and has played with the David Grisman Quintet and the Tony Trischka Band.
Dominick Leslie on mandolin is another child prodigy and Berklee student. He’s played with banjoist Noam Pikelny, the Grant Gordy Quartet, and filled in with The Infamous Stringdusters for a bit after founding member Jesse Cobb took his leave.
Rock and metal had called guitarist Stash Wyslouch before he turned to bluegrass and country. His musical resume includes Eric Robertson and the Boston Boys, the Unbuttoned Zippers, and Blue Moose.
Roll Me, Tumble Me might be described as poetry set to acoustic music. Working is an ode to workers everywhere who watch others having fun, but also recognize that work could be worse.
Work’s not bad and work’s not hard
I don’t kill chickens or break rocks in a yard
Work’s not bad and the pay’s alright,
I can still go out on a Tuesday night.
Three songs are reprised from earlier recordings. Working and the title number both come from the band’s debut album. With the Deadly Gents on harmony and a richer instrumental bed, It’ll End Too Soon is nicely updated from the original Crooked Still version, which is lovely in itself with Aoife O’Donovan’s sweet vocals.
I Fall Back is a poetic tune about reliving a once beautiful relationship. It starts with a quiet beginning and adds layers of complexity with some fine fiddling by Mike Barnett as the song moves along.
The first single, Bored of the Raging, was also the subject of a music video. It begins in a spare fashion with mostly vocals and a light layer of strings. But the music builds with the catchy tune and concludes with just the banjo.
Beautiful’s Her Body features nice lilting vocals reminiscent of Simon & Garfunkel, and A Faded Star alternates from a slow groove and a fast driving grassy chorus.
The game is over and the race is run,
Darkness falls upon the tracest sun,
An end is closing in but all is fine,
Stars still glow above the tallest pine.
Made it fast and I made it far,
I burned and I burned I’m a faded star,
I made it bright and I made it long,
And I will burn till I’m faded gone.
The Deadly Gentlemen’s star is far from fading. It’s hard to say what they’ll do next but it’s certainly worth watching and enjoying the music along the way.
Roll Me, Tumble Me is available from iTunes and Amazon or, even better, ask about it at your local music store.