The Grateful Bluegrass Boys are not strictly a Grateful Dead tribute band. In fact, these days, Grateful Dead tunes usually make up a small portion of their set. A debut full-length album, released in July 2017, only contains one Grateful Dead tune: “Touch of Grey.”
“The longer we’ve been together, the more the ‘Grateful’ becomes ‘gratitude’ and creating an atmosphere,” says violinist/mandolin player/lead singer Aaron Redner. “We definitely play tons of other music.”
Redner, who played in Hot Buttered Rum for 13 years, started the Grateful Bluegrass Boys in 2012 up in Sonoma and relocated to Santa Cruz a year ago. In that time, not only has he broadened the range of music the band covers—including the songs of Van Morrison, Paul Simon and Willie Nelson, among others—he’s also introduced some of his own originals to the mix.
“These are people we all consider Grateful Bluegrass Boys at heart,” Redner says. “We love people that play music that people love to sing along with. We’re all about the sing-alongs.”
One thing the band is a little more strict on is staying true to the bluegrass sound, no matter whose song is playing. That means tight, drum-free string arrangements with lots of vocal harmonies.
“We try to stay away from aimless jamming,” Redner says. “It’s very important for us to stay connected to bluegrass, but also not be afraid to improvise and to bring songs you wouldn’t expect to hear played by a bluegrass band. We’re doing a Cars tune right now that’s going over really well.”
INFO: 9 p.m. Saturday, March 30. Flynn’s Cabaret & Steakhouse, 6275 Hwy. 9, Felton. $12 adv/$15 door. 335-2800.