Contemporary bluegrass w/ multi-hued markings & mottled patterns from other genr
Playing Time – 37:15 -- Their moniker is a fitting one. The Dappled Grays present contemporary bluegrass music with multi-hued markings and mottled patterns from other genres such as jazz and swing. Based in Atlanta, it’s interesting to track the evolution of this group since their formation in 1999 by Michael Smith (mandolin) and Casey Cook (guitar). Their debut release (“In the Gait”) established them as a “progressive, polished, passionate group” that emphasizes instrumental prowess and strong songwriting. Revitalized after taking a break in 2005, the rest of the quintet now includes Leah Calvert (fiddle), Greg Earnest (banjo), and Keith Morris (bass). Lead vocals are sung by Calvert and Smith. Their material is still largely original, and their driving bluegrass opener “The Night Life” exclaims their understanding of the genre and how to drive with foot on the pedal and hand on the wheel. “In Full Stride” is an optimistic statement about risk-taking that provides perceptive insight into their music. “Too hard to breathe just toeing the line, Step outside into a ray of sunshine…” can be viewed an analogy to their musical creativity and innovation. During the set, five numbers are drawn from the pens of songwriters Malcomb Holcombe, Steven Heller, Gillian Welch or Jonathan Byrd to supplement their own original repertoire. Their arrangement of the traditional “Red Rocking Chair” is dappled with spots of solo banjo, evocative vocals, instrumental harmonies, jazzy chordal progressions and breaks. I would’ve been disappointed if this band hadn’t given us a swingy offering like their strong original closer, “Gonna Put You in My Pocket.” And the song includes yet another sweet little analogy that could also describe their finely implemented eclectic music – “snuggly you will fit on my tailored hip.” That’s how their music hit me, a reviewer who enjoys hearing bands forming their own unique and personalized sound.
Each musician brings some strong experience to the cohesive unit. Smith, for example, did a stint with the country group Sugarland. Cook, an instructor in the bluegrass music program at Ohio’s Denison University, is featured in the winter 2007 issue of Flatpicking magazine. Atlanta native Calvert grew up in a musical family and draws comparisons to Alison Krauss. Well-known in Atlanta’s bluegrass music scene, Earnest’s banjo instruction tapes are available at Banjo.com. Studying classical bass playing, Morris earned a bachelor’s degree in music from the University of Georgia in 1992. He’s performed with Claire Lynch and Alison Krauss.
The Dappled Grays clearly have the skills and aptitude to play many genres of music. They’ve chosen bluegrass instrumentation as their exhilarating foundation, but their creative repertoire and arrangements also reward us with poignant vocals and splendid songcrafting. Overall, “Doin’ My Job” is an excellent production that very nicely showcases their many strengths. I look forward to hearing much more from this band as they continue to build their signature sounds …. and legion of fans. (Joe Ross, staff writer, Bluegrass Now)