May 19, 2011

REVIEW: Gangstagrass feat. T.O.N.E-z: Lightning on the Strings, Thunder on the Mic


This is a very strange album to review.  I think to properly give it it's due, someone would have to be as well versed with the world of bluegrass as they are with hip hop.  Now, I'll be the first to say I'm not a connisseur of bluegrass, so I wouldn't know anything about that.  Hip hop, while I'm not the most knowledgeable, I have enough to know what's what.

That said, as I said this is kinda strange for me.  There are moments in here where the two genres mix so perfectly that it feels like a work of pure genius.  Those moments in which the combination of the bluegrass and hip hop is pretty damn good.

Then there are other moments in which the rapper T.O.N.E-z raps just sounds kinda weird.  As if he's having a difficult time matching the music with his flow.   However that's not very often, and only in a few places.  Overall it's a pretty cool mixing of genres, and is reminiscent of some of the best moments from albums by artists like Everlast and Bubba Sparxxx, who have both used country and bluegrass elements in their music.  This, however, may be the first time I've heard a bluegrass band backing a rapper, or a rapper fronting a bluegrass band, for that matter.

There are other moments such as "I'm Gonna Put You Down" which is flat out fantastic on all fronts.  While I haven't listened to bluegrass much in my life, there are some songs on here that were just incredible to listen to, and it had me putting them on repeat.  You often hear people say "it was like nothing I'd ever heard before.".  In this case, it's LITERALLY true.  I HAD never heard this type of music before, and it was really damn good.

And although there were some songs on here that were sans rapping, there were also songs where I kinda wished there was just the bluegrass singing, because while I really liked T.O.N.E-z, those specific songs, the singing is pretty damn beautiful all in itself, (particularly with the female vocalist) and I think it'd be interesting to hear some of Rench's solo releases.

Most people have probably heard of Gangstagrass & T-O-N-E-z through their song "Long Hard Times To Come", the theme song to the hit FX series "Justified", starring Timothy Olyphant as Deputy US Marshall Raylan Givens.  Givens is a character from a few stories by legendary crime novelist Elmore Leonard, who himself is a fan of Gangstagrass.

Leonard, when talking about the group, said that they had "done nothing short of creating a new form of music. Gangstagrass takes two types of music that are opposites and mixes them together brilliantly in a way that is natural and enjoyable."

I think that's a pretty fair way to sum up the group.   I think that purists of either genre will probably not find much to like here, as if you're a strict bluegrass fan, you'll probably not like the hip hop, and if you're a die hard hip hop purist, you'll probably shake your head at this.  However if you are someone like myself in that you enjoy hearing different types of music, and you love experimenting with different genres, then this could be something you'd be interested in.

Gangstagrass feat. T.O.N.E-z' release "Lightning on the Strings, Thunder on the Mic", aside from being a pretty damn good title, along with a pretty nice album cover, is a pretty intriguing album in and of itself.  Definitely not something you hear everyday, and is a welcome musical addition to the landscape for those who like their music anything but ordinary and bland.   Purists on both sides of the hip hop/bluegrass fence will probably blanche at this (and going from some of the Amazon reviews, that's not an outrageous assumption), but those who actually like interesting and different music, and give it a chance, very well might find a satisfying reward for their stepping out from their safety zone.

Recommended for fans of Everlast's "Whitey Ford sings The Blues" and Bubba Sparxxx's "Deliverance" albums.

 NOTE:  If you are looking for the theme song to Justified, it is not on this album.  You have to buy that individual track via Itunes.  Do NOT buy the "Long Hard Times To Come" single on Amazon, by a guy named "Hacksaw", if you are looking for the version that is on the TV series, because it is NOT the track by Gangstagrass.  It's some guy doing a cover.  So if you want the theme song, go to the Itunes store and get it, and make sure the artist is Gangstagrass, and not someone named "Hacksaw".

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