Shiny Side Up
“Shiny Side Up,” the first song on the Dirty Grass Players new album of the same name, is less an opening track than it is a grand statement of purpose. With its David Grisman-esque feel, the 10-minute exploration boldly announces the arrival of the Dirty Grass Players latest album, Shiny Side Up, with an energetic-explosion of old-time pickin’ that is colored with a stylish, newgrass hand that finds the Dirty Grass Players straddling the thin line between the traditional and the progressive.
For the Dirty Grass Players, from Baltimore, Maryland, the traditional is clearly the backbone of what they do as the driving sound of banjo-picker Alex Berman and thumping bass of Connor Murrary provide a solid base over which they layer a more progressive approach. Shiny Side Up, produced by Travelin’ McCourys’ guitarist Coldy Kilby perfectly captures that divide, with traditional numbers like, “Cold Wind Blowing,” and “Pass Me the Bottle,” existing shoulder to shoulder with more progressive ones like like “Shiny Side Up,” and “Pockets in Retrograde.” “Pockets”sounds like it could have been found on a lost Tony Rice album as it kicks off with a blast of Ryan Rogers hyperkinetic mandolin and is driven along by Ben Kolakowski’s inspired guitar.
Shiny Side Up perfectly captures the high-octane energy of their live shows which they have become known for. This is best exhibited by “Shiny Side Up” and “Riptide” (featuring fiddler Jason Carter) both which allow the Dirty Grass Players to showcase the strength of the band and what they do best, simply letting loose and ripping. The murder ballad “Bound to Die” closes the album, which is appropriate as it and the opening “Shiny Side Up” are the most complete songs on the album, both with their lyrical and musical composition. Both songs also best represent the dual nature of the Dirty Grass Players and the music, that ability to stay true to the roots of bluegrass while at the same time giving a peek into the soul of a string band who is known to play everything from Pink Floyd to Lourdes to the Grateful Dead with stunning conviction in their sets. Shiny Side Up validates the arrival of the Dirty Grass Players onto the scene and shows bluegrass is in good hands going forward.