The Deadly Gentlemen's new album, "Roll Me, Tumble Me," released in early July on Rounder Records, is a departure from the vocal stylings of the bluegrass band's earlier recordings.
"The vocals are more melodic and songlike as opposed to the first records," says frontman Greg Liszt. "There are constant two- and three-part harmonies on the new album. We wrote music that is easier to sing along to."
Who: The Deadly Gentlemen
When: 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 8
Where: Green Springs Inn, 11470 Highway 66, Ashland
Tickets: $15 in advance; $20 at the door
The Deadly Gentlemen will perform at 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 8, at Green Springs Inn, 11470 Highway 66, Ashland. Tickets cost $15 in advance and can be purchased at Music Coop. Tickets will cost $20 at the door.
When Liszt joined fiddler Mike Barnett and double-bass player Sam Grisman — yes, David Grisman's son — in 2008 to record the first Deadly Gentlemen project, "The Bastard Masterpiece," the music was an experimental mix of rap vocals and banjo-driven grooves that Liszt now describes as "Eminem meets the Soggy Bottom Boys."
After a change in the lineup in 2010, the band recorded "Carry Me to Home," released in 2011, featuring hard, acoustic grooves and unconventional gang vocals. Yet, it was a step toward the group's style featured on "Roll Me, Tumble Me."
"The new album is a natural evolution," Liszt says. "It definitely feels like a big turning point. We've done a little bit of maturing and evolved into something that's a little closer to conventional song structure."
Along with Stash Wyslouch on guitar and Dominick Leslie on mandolin, The Deadly Gentlemen have gone from quirky side project to a singular musical force.
"There was a point in 2011 when we all sat down and decided that we wanted to make The Deadly Gentlemen our main focus," Liszt says. "We needed to go on tour, get our chops up and figure out the best way to deliver our music. We all agreed that if we just got into the van, it would go somewhere, and it has.
The biggest priority for "Roll Me, Tumble Me" was to capture the group's serious and humorous sides.
"Both of those things are equally important to us," Liszt says. "On its most fundamental level, music has to be fun, and we always have a lot of fun when we play together. But at the same time, we want the music and lyrics to have some substance."
"Roll Me, Tumble Me" showcases emotionally evocative songs such as "I Fall Back," "Bored of the Raging," "A Faded Star" and "Beautiful's Her Body."
The album also points to The Deadly Gentlemen's musical history by reinventing three songs that appeared in different versions on earlier releases. The title track and the rousing "Working" are from the band's self-released debut, and "It'll End Too Soon" was originally recorded by Liszt as a member of alt-bluegrass band Crooked Still.
"We play original music on bluegrass instruments," Liszt says. "Our live shows feature more instrumentals than the albums, and we try to present diverse live shows with music from all of the albums."
The group occasionally throws in standard bluegrass fiddle and banjo tunes — everything from Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs to Stony Lonesome, Liszt says.
"We even cover some classic Rolling Stones, Beatles and Grateful Dead," he says.
Liszt and his bandmates, along with Nashville engineer Erick Jaskowiak, recorded the instrumental tracks on "Roll Me, Tumble Me" in a makeshift studio set up in a house in Eclectic, Ala., before taking the tracks home to Boston to record the vocals.