Greensky Bluegrass with Duane Betts - Raleigh 01.18.2024

Psychedelic Bluegrass and Southern Rock make a good combo!

The evening began with Duane Betts and Palmetto Motel. Son of Dickey Betts, the guitarist who is one of the founders of the Allman Brothers Band, Duane continues the southern-rock legacy with his own band and his own songs. His band for the evening was made up of guitarist Johnny Stachela, drummer Vince Fossett Jr., and bassist Pedro Arevalo. The group played a range of songs, many off the new Duane Betts album, Wild and Precious Life, and some others from older recordings. 

They opened with "Saints to Sinners" coming out the gate strong on this new original. The band jammed out hard enough that during the second song, "Colors Fade", Duane broke a guitar string. He confidently played on with 5 strings through most of "Stare At The Sun" until a tech brought him the back-up guitar. During this guitar swap, Stachela was ripping a huge solo on his guitar. The next song was an Allman Betts Band original, "Rivers Run". After that they played fan-favorite "Jessica" by the Allman Brothers Band. They wrapped up their set with another song off the new album, called "Waiting On A Song". The textures of each song varied. Some were one the crowd swayed to, with the slide guitar singing, and others had the crowd dancing hard. The music was mixed clearly, so you could pick out every instrument easily from the mix. Duane's voice was crisp with the occasional gritty edge that really gave that southern rock flavor to the sound. 

I went into this performance totally blind. I had heard of Duane Betts before because of the legacy he's continuing, but I didn't know what he was going to bring to the table. He brought his own touch to this kind of music. He doesn't play exactly like his father. He has created a sound that is unique to his band, but still honors the rich history that he grew up around. I think the band he has curated is very skilled and they have good on-stage chemistry. This group as well as Duane's other endeavors are definitely something to keep an eye out for in the music world. 

Then it was Greensky Bluegrass time. The band is composed of Paul Hoffman on mandolin and lead vocals, Dave Bruzza on guitar, Anders Beck on dobro, Mike Devol bass, and Michael Bont on banjo. They opened the set with "Prom Night", covering the Robin Davis Duo. This bass heavy bluesy song got everyone warmed up for what was to come. "Run Or Die" was up next. The second song in, we were already traveling through many sonic atmospheres in a spacey jam. This was followed by a soft, sweet "Room Without A Roof". Both of these are from Greensky's 2016 album, Shouted, Written Down & Quoted. Next they played "Cut A Tooth" off of 2022's Stress Dreams. This song saw some big mandolin action from Hoffman and fast pickin' from Beck. The next song went back 10 years in time to "In Control" from If Sorrows Swim. The crowd was really feeling this one. At any point during the show you could look around and see people enthusiastically singing from the balconies and in the crowd around you. This song served as a mantra for everyone, with the lyrics "I'm not out of control" being sung in the whole house. They then played with tempo changes and vocal delay on "All For Money", the title track of the 2019 album. Lots of effects pedals were triggered on this one, making a fun tripped-out live song, honoring the studio version. The penultimate song of the first set was "All Four" which would jam on for 15 minutes, every musician getting to shine with their instrument. Then, to finish off the set, they busted out a great bluegrass rendition of Talking Heads' "Road To Nowhere". This was the kind of song that even the Greensky Bluegrass newbies could sing along to. The vibes were high and it was a great way to leave off the first set, leaving great anticipation for what would go down in the rest of the evening. 

The second set opened with a cover of the classic "How Mountain Girls Can Love" by the Stanley Brothers. The band was raring to go, and this energetic bluegrass cover got the crowd in a bouncy mood. "Stress Dreams" was next. They kicked on the distortion pedals for this one, and we got to hear some awesome & evil dobro playing from Anders Beck. They know how to play the game of ramping up the intensity of their playing and bring it to a big release, and this 10 minute live version showed how they are masters at this. "Fixin' To Ruin" followed. This had a great bass solo from Mike Devol as well as a couple clicks from a small percussion instrument that appeared twice from the sidelines and made everyone cheer. Some wah-wah pedal was also put into gear for this one. The crowd was full of energy for this set, with some people jumping up and down and dancing all around. Next was "Bottle Dry" from 2006's Tuesday Letter. This song slowed things down for a little bit, and featured some lovely harmonies from the guys. Then the tempo was brought back up with "Better Off" from Handguns. Duane Betts came back for a couple tunes, and the first was "I'd Probably Kill You". Changing the lyrics, they sang "Might burn your house down if I was somehow sure Billy Strings were in there" in a playful quip to their jamgrass buddy. Then they played the marvelous "Ain't Wastin' Time No More" by the Allman Brothers Band, much to everyone's excitement. Duane's guitar played out beautifully, and the whole band did a great job at honoring the song. Duane then left and the band played "33433" and a 10 minute "Kerosene", which got some heavy jamming action. 

When they came back for the encore they played "Old Barns" from Five Interstates (2008). 

Mike Devol was sporting a Broke Mountain Bluegrass Band shirt in support of his bandmate Anders. This band is a supergroup of sorts, comprised of Travis Book of the Infamous Stringdusters, Anders Beck of Greensky, Robin Davis and Andy Thorn of Leftover Salmon, and Jon Stickley of Jon Stickley Trio. They recently released a remaster of their 20 year old album Cabin In the Hills, now available on all streaming platforms. The group has been reuniting for some select dates, including performing as one of the headliners for Rooster Walk 14 - near Martinsville, Virginia - which is a family friendly festival with fun for all. 

The whole show was a testament to their musicianship and creativity. The light show was spectacular, painting the sounds into color. You can really see how their craft has inspired younger jamgrass musicians like Billy Strings. If you want some good bluegrass, songwriting, and jamming, go see a Greensky Bluegrass show. 

Set One: 

Prom night
Run or Die >
Room without a Roof
Cut A Tooth
In Control
All For Money
All Four >
Road To Nowhere

Set Two:
How Mountain Girls Can Love
Stress Dreams
Fixin' To Ruin
Bottle Dry
Better Off
I'd Probably Kill You*
Ain't Wastin' Time No More*

E: Old Barns

Notes:  * featured Duane Betts


Words by: Maya Crumpton

Photos by: Jerry Friend