VAIL — Brooklyn-based Gangstagrass is headed to Vail tonight, fresh on the heels of their newly released album, “Broken Hearts & Stolen Money.” The Emmy-nominated band is known for their “rap‘n’grass” renditions, pairing the sounds of classic bluegrass with contemporary hip-hop.
“It always catches my attention when bands converge previously non-meshed styles, (that) takes guts and vision,” said Scotty Stoughton, owner of Bonfire Entertainment and the show promoter. “Couple that with positive reviews from artists like the MarchForth Marching Band and national promoter friends, it was a no brainer to bring their energetic and unique live show to Vail.”
The band’s founder, Rench (his stage name), said he has been working on combining the music styles for more than a decade.
“I would always listen to old bluegrass records from the ’70s, and I heard how it could fit in with rap,” he said.
Rench originally launched Rench Audio Studios in Brooklyn, where he started recording emcees and would combine their tracks with samples of bluegrass, blues and electronic beats — the first dynamics of country-rap that would eventually define Gangstagrass as a band and genre all its own. The name of the band’s debut album, “Rappalachia,” is a play on words —like the rap lyrics it includes — created to pay homage to the region of Appalachia, a mecca that holds many original roots of bluegrass culture.
The band was recognized in 2010 with an Emmy nomination for “Outstanding Main Title Theme Music” for their theme song to the FX series “Justified.” The current members of Gangstagrass include Rench on vocals and guitar, Adriel Williams on fiddle and vocals, Landry McMeans on dobro and Dan Whitener on banjo and vocals.
Two emcees, known as Dolio the Sleuth and R-SON the Voice of Reason, spout lyrics alongside the sounds of a banjo, fiddle, slide and acoustic guitar. Rench said both rappers will be on stage the whole show at the Ale House, spontaneously crafting their rhymes to slide with the cadence of each string player’s spontaneous riff. Rench said the band will play songs from its new and debut albums, as well as some songs they only play live.
“We collaborate live and experiment as we go,” he said. “The audience will get to see something pretty fantastic in Vail. It’s so much more than what can be on a recording; to see it happen on stage is a whole other ballgame.”