Rounder Records will release Roll Me, Tumble Me, the third album by Boston quintet The Deadly Gentlemen. Though the Gents employ acoustic guitar, banjo, fiddle, mandolin and double bass—a lineup that's usually associated with traditional bluegrass—their music defies conventional genre restrictions. The result is timelessly resonant music that's rooted in tradition, yet effortlessly contemporary and boundlessly entertaining.
Throughout Roll Me, Tumble Me, such beguilingly melodic, emotionally evocative tunes as "I Fall Back," "Bored of the Raging," "A Faded Star" and "Beautiful's Her Body" match banjoist/vocalist/songwriter Greg Liszt's lilting melodies and pointedly poetic lyrics with his bandmates' eloquent musicianship and unconventional vocal blend to bring his compositions to life, reflecting the unique individual and collective backgrounds that have contributed to the Deadly Gentlemen's evolution from quirky side-project to singular musical force.
The Deadly Gentlemen's members had all led eventful individual musical lives before they joined forces. In addition to touring and recording extensively with Crooked Still, Greg Liszt attended college at Yale and earned a Ph.D. from M.I.T. in Molecular Biology. His innovative four-finger picking technique helped him to win a place as a member of Bruce Springsteen's live band for Springteen's Seeger Sessions tour.
Mike Barnett began his career as a child fiddle prodigy, touring with bluegrass legend Jesse McReynolds at the tender age of 15. His world-class talents have won him gigs as a member of the David Grisman Quintet and the Tony Trischka Band.
Bassist Sam Grisman has played professionally since his teens, having learned to play bluegrass and other styles at the feet of his father, seminal mandolinist David Grisman.
Mandolinist Dominick Leslie is another former child prodigy, having achieved a series of career milestones before he'd reached the age of 16. Recently, he's won considerable attention for his live appearances with banjoist Noam Pikelny, the Infamous Stringdusters, and the Grant Gordy Quartet.
In contrast to his bandmates' backgrounds in acoustic music, guitarist Stash (short for Stanislaw) Wyslouch grew up on heavy metal before submerging himself in bluegrass and country. His history in hard rock still manifests itself in his propensity for wringing unexpected sounds out of his guitar and screaming at the top of his vocal range. His resume also includes membership in Eric Robertson and the Boston Boys as well as Blue Moose and the Unbuttoned Zippers.
Liszt first hooked up with Barnett and Grisman in 2008 to record the first Deadly Gentlemen project The Bastard Masterpiecee. By the time the current lineup solidified in time to record the 2011 followup Carry Me to Home, the group's style had begun to evolve towards the sound that's featured on Roll Me, Tumble Me, reflecting the five musicians' wide range of interests and diverse assortment of personalities.
"It's very much been a developing project, and it's evolved into something that feels more natural and less like an experiment," says Liszt, explaining, "It started as an arty side-project to our other bands, and the songs on The Bastard Masterpiece were basically old bluegrass songs that we turned into extended poems with groove-based banjo music. There was a big evolution when we recorded Carry Me to Home, which had kind of a gang-vocal style, with all sorts of coordinated shouting, rapping and singing. Now we've evolved from there into something that's a little closer to conventional song structure."
The Deadly Gentlemen's growth into a formidable creative unit and engaging, uplifting live act eventually led to the busy musicians making a conscious choice to commit the bulk of their energies to the group.
Liszt and his bandmates handled Roll Me, Tumble Me's production chores in collaboration with noted Nashville engineer Erick Jaskowiak, cutting the instrumental tracks in a makeshift studio set up for the occasion in a house in Eclectic, Alabama, before bringing the tracks home to Boston to record their vocals.
Roll Me, Tumble Me neatly demonstrates that the Deadly Gentlemen's remarkable creative chemistry is too eclectic and unruly to be contained within a single genre, and that the joy and intensity that they put into their work is contagious.
A free download of “Bored of the Raging” from Roll Me, Tumble Me is available here:
The Deadly Gentlemen will be on tour this summer and throughout the fall.