Since 2009, Greensky Bluegrass has played between 160 and 175 shows a year. With that kind of frantic touring, it's remarkable they even find time to make it into the studio, let alone record a quality album.
But they did, and If Sorrows Swim, the Kalamazoo outfit's fifth studio album, is even better than its critically acclaimed predecessor, 2011's Handguns.
In the song "Worried About the Weather," guitarist Dave Bruzza sings about a "warrior wind." And that seems to be what GSBG injected into its latest album. It's a 12-track acoustic hurricane that howls, whirs, and twangs the whole way through, only dying down when absolutely necessary. The band rockets through its best offerings, balancing on a string, teetering between control and chaos, with the players proving they do their utter best when the tempos are high.
On "Windshield," the group blurs the lines between bluegrass, country, and folk, turning out a song that could garner crossover consideration, with a sound that isn't far from that of recent radio darlings Mumford & Sons or the Lumineers.
Lead vocals are shared by Bruzza and mandolin player Paul Hoffman. Bruzza shines on the song "Kerosene," while Hoffman is at his vocal and lyrical best on an ode to outlaws called "Burn Them." The tune "In Control" starts out slower, but bursts open halfway through with an old-school breakdown led by dobro player Anders Beck.
In familiar circles, GSBG is known for being a group of virtuoso musicians. This comes through loud on and clear on Sorrows. When "Just Listening," the final track of the album comes to an end, those listening will not only be wanting more, they'll be wondering why it took so long to warm up to banjos, dobros, and a band that's always on the road.
Sorrows Swim was scheduled for release Sept. 9, and Greensky Bluegrass recently announced it will be playing a New Year's Eve show at the Royal Oak Music Theatre.