The eight-piece band is a wild mix of banjo, horns, fiddle, and acoustic guitar that eschews much of the modern flair associated with current music. Instead they create a sound that is all strings and old-timey soul at its core, yet still fresh and relevant sounding at the same time. It is this attention to the music that came before them that gives Green Rock River Band’s music its power.
On their debut album, Rhinoceros, Green Rock River Band deliver a rollicking, rambunctious ride which storms across the musical landscape, blasting out songs that sound like a piss-drunk Tom Waits bashing away on a banjo while his mates from New Orleans provide a boozy, horn-laden atmosphere over which to play. Flourishes of jazzy trombones and clacking washboards color that sound and only add to the musical party that is Green Rock River Band.
And all of that is a good thing, a real good thing.
Rhinoceros finds that fine line between the old and the new and uses that area as the canvas upon which they paint their aural soundscapes. The album veers from the sing-a-long working-man anthem “Drinking ‘Till I Die,” to the foot-stomping high-energy galloping thrash of “Angry Ferret,” to the inventive “Rosie Ann” which takes the concept of mixing the old and the modern to a whole new level with its collaboration with DJ Walde. Walde weaves in subtle percussive lines of dub-step beat box into the rhythm of the song which results in a wholly original take on folk-music.
With their English roots and clear influence of traditional British folk and fiddle tunes, Green Rock River Band also help subtly expose the close – but not always noticed – relationship between those traditional British folk-tunes and mountain-bred Appalachian bluegrass.
This ability to move through a variety of sounds can sound clumsy for so many bands, but for Green Rock River Band they pull this off effortlessly through the strength of their songwriting. This strength is shown best on the sorrow-laden lament “Seasons,” a powerful rumination about the passing of time, whose deeply passionate lyrics are balanced against the deep-groove of a Chuck Mangione-esque trumpet line.
This meshing of such diverse influences and styles is what drives the band, and gives Rhinoceros its unique, infectious sound. As singer and banjo-picker Jeremy Sachs says, “We couldn’t create songs like these by sticking with the same formula that has come before, we needed to find a new way of doing things, a new approach to get people excited and thinking about alternative ways of looking at folk, but that is still respectful of old musical tradtions.”
Rhinoceros is out now.