The award-winning, Michigan-bred bluegrass star takes another impressive step forward on his latest, super-lengthy studio release. Plus, check out his latest music video.
SCROLL DOWN TO LISTEN TO A ‘RENEWAL’ TRACK & WATCH THE LATEST VIDEO
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Over the past two years, Billy Strings — an Ionia County native who first cut his teeth as a bluegrass powerhouse in Traverse City — has ascended the ranks as an internationally acclaimed artist, winning a Grammy Award and selling out concerts across the country.
What Stands Out: The haunting beauty of bluegrass often lies in the dichotomy of its presentation: the lilting and blissful-sounding uptempo musicianship juxtaposed against bleak or sobering lyrics. And no one does it better these days than Michigan-bred Billy Strings, who also straddles that blurring line between traditional and progressive/modern bluegrass in dazzling fashion – blossoming in Nashville’s music scene and becoming a national powerhouse while retaining the edgy rock roots of his Ionia County youth. With “Renewal,” Billy Strings, aka William Apostol, continues to mine new musical territory while growing as a writer with something to say. Produced by Jonathan Wilson and recorded at Nashville’s Sound Emporium Studios, this 16-track follow-up to the Grammy Award-winning 2019 album rolls out initially as a nod to tradition, with his crackerjack band and musical guests unfurling the straightforward-but-gorgeous “Know It All” and “Secrets.” But as things unfold, he begins to weave that trademark Billy Strings magic into the mix: spoken-word segments, an anthemic volley on “Heartbeat of America,” lush instrumentation and, finally, with the nearly 9-1/2-minute “Hide and Seek,” an ultra-psychedelic milieu that literally turns bluegrass into a bewitching new genre.
Digging Deeper: Throughout the 70-minute journey of “Renewal,” Apostol deftly explores personal pain, the sorrows of life and the travails of this “mean old world.” Whether it’s a political statement only Apostol can say, but the intensely penetrating lyrics on the hypnotically dreamy “Fire Line” flow from a songwriter who’s more than come into his own as a master of words as well as strings: “My sign is the fire line/My bitter ruthlessness is a beacon to behold/Like cancer growing, someday to die/Where the water’s flowing, I’m gonna drain the river dry.” In Billy Strings’ case, it’s clear from “Renewal” that he hasn’t yet come close to draining the pool of his immense talent, from instrumental virtuosity to poetic discourse.
Perfect For: The traditionalist with an ear for boundary-pushing exploration.
Upcoming Michigan Shows: Nov. 20 and Nov. 21 at The Fillmore in Detroit (Nov. 20 is sold out); Dec. 30, Dec. 31 and Jan. 1 at GLC Live at 20 Monroe in Grand Rapids (Dec. 31 and Jan 1 sold out)
Listen: “Hide and Seek”
VIDEO: “Heartbeat of America”
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