Bluegrass bands often come in two varieties. There are virtuoso string bands where fingers never stop moving in a blinding display of technical proficiency, but lyrically are about as cornball as Uncle Ernest's hogfarm jokes. Then there are songwriter-based groups whose banal overuse of traditional chord progressions are simply a vehicle for the clever lyrics and folklore storytelling. While both forms have their moments, Greensky Bluegrass' mix of unconventional songwriting and slick-string dexterity is exceptional. The song "No Idea," from the band's 2011 album Handguns, is a perfect example, flawlessly balancing confessional poetry between dobro moans and melodic mandolin lines.
Better still is when a band with such a masterful grip on their craft can still be downright fun, a key element to Greensky's live shows that has helped it build a dedicated following over the past decade. Covers like Prince's "When Doves Cry" alleviate the mood and somehow seem right at home tucked in among—or often weaved directly into—its originals. Missoula has been a regular tour stop for these road warriors for years, and if previous shows are any indication, the grass is always greener when this band comes to town.
Greensky Bluegrass plays the Palace Tue., March 5, at 9 PM. $18/$15 advance.