American Roots highlights the freshest and most original Americana and bluegrass from across the pond in the US. It covers everything from brand-new, just out of the box bands, to cult favourites, to established acts who have yet to reach the UK’s shores. Hailing from the college-town of Stevens Point, Wisconsin is Horseshoes & Hand Grenades, who sound like a bottle of whiskey being passed around at a late-night party by the river hosted by John Hartford & the Dillards and Greensky Bluegrass, that stretches into the early morning hours and welcomes the sunrise with some ‘American Beauty’-era Grateful Dead.
Name: Horseshoes & Handgrenades.
For Fans of: Trampled by Turtles, Infamous Stringdusters, Greensky Bluegrass.
Hometown: Stevens Point, Wisconsin.
Band Members: Adam Greuel (guitar, dobro, vocals), David C. Lynch (harmonica, accordion, spoons, vocals), Collin Mettelka (fiddle, mandolin, vocals), Russell Pedersen (banjo, fiddle, vocals), and Samual Odin (bass)
Discography: ‘Another Round’ (2012), ‘This Old Town’ (2013), ‘Middle Western’ (2015), ‘The Ode’ (2018), ‘Miles in Blue’ (2020)
Background: “When the pandemic hit we thought let’s get this together and release it,” explains Horseshoes & Hand Grenades guitarist Adam Greuel about the band’s new album, ‘Miles in Blue’, due to be released November 25. “It has a wide range of emotions. It has topical songs. Some songs are sad and some are about the road. There is also a feeling of hope which we need more than ever in these challenging times. We thought it feels like a fall record, people may need it then, and sure enough we go through this crazy election and the pandemic. We need music to get by.”
‘Miles in Blue’ is the fifth album from the Wisconsin based band. Since first forming at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point in 2009, Horseshoes & Hand Grenades have crafted a modern take on bluegrass featuring all the elements of traditional bluegrass you would expect to find, tight vocal harmonies, inventive soloing, and strong instrumental interplay, but delivered with a youthful energy, an engaging honesty, and a loose sense of fun, that stamps Horseshoes & Hand Grenades as something new, a bluegrass band for the 21st century, a new-time, old-time string band.
While the band has always been known for their strong songwriting, ‘Miles in Blues’ features a thoughtful maturity as they tackle deeper issues with a lyrical complexity that exhibits a stunning growth for the band from the young men who first started the band in college. “It’s probably indicative of where we are in life,” says the thirty-year-old Greuel. “Our other albums were cut when we were in our twenties. We started this band when we were nineteen. Now we can look back at the transformation of our songs and songwriting. A song like ‘Whiskey’ (from the band’s second album) I would never write now. The new stuff has a theme of us losing that idea of being invincible. When you are in your twenties you feel you can go anywhere and do anything, you can stay up all night and wear yourself out and still be fine the next day. Then you grow up and you realize your vulnerabilities. The first single ‘Broke’ Russ wrote about being on the road with your best friends but thinking about being home and a future and growing old.”
Even with this growth and maturity, much of who Horseshoes & Hand Grenades is, is based on their high-energy live shows that find the five songwriters who all sing, huddled around a single mic on stage trading off lead vocals in a raucous, rowdy, good time. For much of ‘Miles in Blue’ in your mind’s ear you can already hear the transition of these songs from the album to stage, and anticipation of what these songs can become live adds another layer of deep meaning to what is a defining album for the band. Much of this was due to what Greuel called a group decision to “serve the song,” to step back and really just focus on the songwriting. The result is an album that features less soloing, more group parts, and shorter songs. Greuel says, “It just felt like that was the approach we needed to take and was more about us liking and serving the songs.” Greuel is also quick to credit producer Chad Staehly (Hard Working Americans) for the feel of the album. “Chad is just so good at creating an environment that is conducive to creating music. He has such a mellow attitude and a real cool tool box from working with so many people. He is a great producer and guru and definitely contributed to the laid back feel of the album. He is wildly good at being the person that everyone needs in the studio. He keeps everyone happy and knows the importance of laughter.”
The eighteen tracks of ‘Miles in Blue’ can be introspective, they can be goofy, they can be enlightening, they can be truthful, and they can be your best friend as it takes you on a journey. “I know that this is all of our favorite records that we have ever created,” says Greuel. “I love all the songs that everyone brought. It is just really honest songwriting.”
What They Do Live:
To check out all the artists featured in Americana Roots swing by the regularly updated playlist below: