Spaceman’s Wonderbox – Graber Gryass

Michael Graber and the Memphis-based collective called Graber Gryass aren’t your typical bluegrass band, given their seemingly off-kilter attitude and a woozy delivery that often sounds like they’re on the receiving end of continuing supply of adult beverages or, perhaps, other substances of an equally intoxicating variety. “There’s a buzz in every bottle,” Graber and company declare on the song that echoes that recurring line in its title. “Try not to feel ashamed.”

They obviously believe in that mantra, as evidenced by the impression shared throughout their sophomore set, the kinetically dubbed Spaceman’s Wonderbox. Call it a cosmic connection if you will, especially since the band’s delirious delivery finds a euphemistic attitude with ample room for interpretation.

Graber himself has described the album’s sound as, “like a radio that’s been left on a volunteer station you hear really late one Saturday night—that’s the concept.” Given the fact that there are 15 players in this thrown-together ensemble, the loose dynamic comes as no surprise, and on songs such as River Bottom Real Slow and Gravity’s String, the melodies meander as much as the song titles would seem to suggest. The plodding pace of Sloppy Seconds and the collective wail of It Was Always You effectively add to that sense of serendipity.

“All you doubters out there, the earth is not flat…we’ve got scientific proof,” Graber declares on the lead-in to the ramshackle Lucky Penny. The wacky ramble that follows, Broke Yolk Folk, the aforementioned There’s a Buzz in Every Bottle, and the straight-out Drinking Again, all form a tipsy trifecta of sorts, a combined ode to intoxication that offers evidence that indeed, there’s reason to believe a relapse may be a prime possibility. 

While the entire entourage may be feeling the effects of several sips too many, they still manage to hold things together, with banjos, guitars, mandolin, and even a harmonium wailing at full throttle when a crazy cacophony is called for. Likewise, when the group bids farewell with Strawberry Cake, it’s clear that this Spaceman’s Wonderbox is cruising in for a landing not a moment too soon. It’s been a rowdy, rollicking excursion, but Graber Gryass’ nutty navigation techniques still pulls it all together. Strap up your seatbelt and enjoy the ride.

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About the Author

Lee Zimmerman

Lee Zimmerman has been a writer and reviewer for the better part of the past 20 years. He writes for the following publications — No Depression, Goldmine, Country Standard TIme, Paste, Relix, Lincoln Center Spotlight, Fader, and Glide. A lifelong music obsessive and avid collector, he firmly believes that music provides the soundtrack for our lives and his reverence for the artists, performers and creative mind that go into creating their craft spurs his inspiration and motivation for every word hie writes.