Putting a label on Dusty Green Bones’ music is no easy task.
“Some people call it electric amplified bluegrass, but words like newgrass and jamgrass pop up too,” says Isaac Cantor, the band’s banjo player. “I guess if you listen to us perform, you can understand the meanings of those terms.”
The band is set to perform at 9:30 p.m. Friday, April 27, at the Talent Club, 114 Talent Ave., Talent. Admission is $10.
Dusty Green Bones — based in Sonoma County just north of San Francisco — features acoustic guitarist Toby Sanchez-Mahan, mandolin player Dustin Brown, bassist Scotty Brown and drummer Jon Ryan, along with Cantor.
Dustin Brown, Scotty Brown (not related) and Ryan attended the same high school in Orange County, where they played music together and formed a band shortly after graduation. The group played venues from Los Angeles to San Diego until the three moved to different towns in Northern California in 2008. A few years later, they moved to San Francisco, where they met Sanchez-Mahan. Soon after that, the four young men and another guitarist formed Dusty Green Bones. Then they decided they needed a banjo player.
“Toby knew me, so I was invited to join the band,” Cantor says, adding that the other guitarist is no longer with the band.
The musicians all live in cities within an hour’s drive to San Francisco — an area known for its many concert venues.
Dusty Green Bones’ deepest roots draw nourishment from the music of bluegrass icons such as Bill Monroe, Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs.
“But bluegrass has evolved tremendously,” Cantor says. “The changes started in the 1970s, when Sam Bush and Bela Fleck started a band called the New Grass Revival. They performed music in a bluegrass format but did things with the instrumentation that no one had ever done, and they came up with the term ‘newgrass.’ ”
New Grass Revival and other bands of that era spawned a transformation of bluegrass music that continues to this day, he says.
“The use of electric instruments and drums have pushed it beyond the borders of traditional bluegrass,” he says. “We have an electric bass and a drummer, and we are louder. That’s why people call our music progressive, amplified bluegrass.”
The other term — jamgrass — speaks of the marriage between bluegrass and jam bands such as the Grateful Dead and Phish.
“We’ll take a bluegrass song and go into a jam, including some solos in the middle of it, not just keep it straight,” Cantor says.
The unmistakable bluegrass sound overflows with nuances from a wide mix of other genres from the past and present. At times — just for a moment or so — one can almost hear the distant echoes of the folk and folk-rock bands of the ’60s and ’70s emanating from Dusty Green Bones.
“I started playing the guitar when I was 6 years old,” Cantor says. “When I was 15, my uncle took me to a folk festival, where I saw and listened to banjos and mandolins. I loved the sounds, the vibes and the spirit of the festival. When I got home, I got more serious about playing the guitar, and a couple of my friends and I started a bluegrass band. I went to buy a better guitar and bought a banjo instead.”
Each of the other band members have similar stories: They began to learn music while young and eventually felt drawn to bluegrass and jam band music. Each also has a short list of bluegrass bands and musicians who influenced them, but all of them point to the Grateful Dead and Phish as the primary inspiration of the jam portion of Dusty Green Bones’ music.
“Phil Lesh — the bass player for the Grateful Dead — really showed me that there are no boundaries in music,” Scotty Brown says.
Ryan mentions Vince Herman, drummer for Leftover Salmon.
“He taught me that music doesn’t have to be taken so seriously, and he taught me how to be in the moment,” he says.
Friday night’s show is Dusty Green Bones’ second appearance at the Talent Club. The band’s busy tour schedule will take it through 10 Western states.
The band released a self-titled EP in February 2015 and a full-length album, “The Constant Gardener,” in November 2017. Find more information at dustygreenbonesband.com