Waking Up – Graber Gryass

It’s hard to clearly characterize the Memphis-based band, Graber Gryass. Elements of bluegrass and Americana are embedded in their sound, but the music boasts such diversity and heterodoxy that it’s difficult to pigeonhole them within any specific genre. The band, which currently consists of Michael Graber (vocals, guitar), Kitty Dearing (vocals and sax), Andy Ratliff (mandolin and  vocals), Clint Wagner (fiddle and 12 string guitar), Randal Morton (banjo), Andrew Geraci (bass), and Caleb Ryan Martin (high strung guitar, baritone banjo), have produced three albums to date — Late Bloom in 2020, Spaceman’s Wonderbox in 2021, and their current effort, Waking Up. Nevertheless, pigeonholing their approach remains a challenge at best.

That elusive identity is easy to understand. The members come from wildly different backgrounds, and include an award-winning poet and published author, a Winfield-winning banjo champion, the musical director of Public Enemy (!?), and veterans of the established bluegrass bands, Rumpke Mountain Boys and Devil Train. Those varied influences play a predominant part in their sound, one that incorporates high harmonies, a jam-like mentality befitting the Grateful Dead and New Grass Revival, and, at times, a jazzy sway and sashay. 

That freewheeling sound is manifested throughout the new album’s nine tracks. The opening offering, All the Time, comes across with a ragtag feel, both rowdy and rambunctious. Taproot is easy and unhurried despite its busy percussive pace. Waking Up, the implications of its title aside, is decidedly lazy and lethargic. Living on a Fauxline offers an interesting mix of blues and bluegrass, with some pointed picking, a determined vocal, and a shuffling rhythm underscoring it all.

Those in search of a fully fueled vintage delivery will likely find Hardcore Heartbreak and Faultline serving that purpose best, its mix of fiddle, mandolin, and banjo creating a sound of vintage variety. So too, the laidback feel of Okay and Good To You hints at more down-home designs.

Ultimately, Waking Up requires an open mind to fully appreciate Graber Gryass’ wholly  unconventional approach. It’s intriguing to say the least, and oddly engaging in an eccentric, eclectic, and anything but subtle sort of way. 

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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.