Lots of modern bluegrass-ish bands play in Bend, and I’ll bet you have your favorite: Yonder Mountain. Head for the Hills. The Infamous Stringdusters. Hot Buttered Rum.
I have mine, too: Greensky Bluegrass, a bunch of bearded Michiganders who use close-to-traditional bluegrass instrumentation — guitar, banjo, mandolin, bass and Dobro instead of fiddle — to make not-far-from-traditional bluegrass.
Now, the Bluegrass Tradition Police Force might get their suit jackets in a bunch when they hear me say that, but compared to some of the funky-punky kitchen-sink ‘grass we get ’round these parts, it’s true: Greensky reminds me of the real deal.
That is to say these five guys generally play tight, well-paced acoustic music with wonderfully melodic (and often melancholic) lead vocals and solid harmonies. But, yeah, they also are able to work outside the lines with ease, occasionally venturing into honky-tonk and even psychedelic roots music.
That adventurous spirit is why they’re playing not only the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, but also Bonnaroo and the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival this year. You can hear several of their big-sky songs at www.greensky bluegrass.com.
Greensky returns to Bend on Sunday evening, and that’s good news on its own. But this time, we get a special treat as the opener is Tumbleweed Wanderers, a five-piece from Oakland, Calif., that isn’t bluegrass, but that does play an easygoing and soulful style of folk-rock that ought to pair well with Sunday’s headliner.
The Wanderers have been at it since early 2011, and they spend tons of time on the road honing their sound; you might remember them from their free show at Les Schwab Amphitheater last summer. They have a full-length album out, but more recently, they put out their “Worn Down Welcome” EP, a four-song collision of soul, pop, R&B and Americana that reminds me of The Head and the Heart without the female vocals and with a more well-worn collection of records from the ’60s and ’70s. Hear it at www.tumble weedwanderers.com.
Greensky Bluegrass, with Tumbleweed Wanderers ; 8 p.m. Sunday, doors open 7 p.m.; $15 plus fees in advance (outlets listed at the website below), $18 at the door; Domino Room, 51 N.W. Greenwood Ave., Bend; www .randompresents.com.