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Interview:
Gangstagrass brings a hip-hop flava to bluegrass
 

By GARY GRAFF
Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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The members of Gangstagrass have gotten used to raised eyebrows for their blend of bluegrass and hip-hop since the Brooklyn sextet formed in 2006. But a warm reception at the latest Folk Alliance conference and festival gave group founder Rench [cq] and his cohorts some confident that they're getting past the resistance.

"Oh, we do get some pushback," says Rench, 39. "There are bluegrass purists out there who think that putting drums with bluegrass is against he rules, so putting sampled drums and rappers is a crime against nature. But those kind of purists re a very thin slice of the overall community.

"Our biggest audience is a people out there who have eclectic tastes already and aren't one-genre listeners. You don't realize how many people like that they're are, because the music industry is so segregated into separate radio stations and web sites and genres. But there are actually a lot of people out there with Johnny Cash and Jay Z on their iPods, and that's who we play to, I think."

Gangstagrass -- which released its fourth album, "Broken Hearts and Stolen Money," in January -- also had a fan, and friend, in the late Detroit author Elmore "Dutch" Leonard, who Rench and company met after their "Long Hard Times to Come" became the Emmy Award-nominated theme song for "Justified," the FX television series based on some of Leonard's writings.

"I was very honored to count him as a fan of Gangstagrass after 'Justified' started," Rench recalls. "He had some amazing things to say about what we were doing, and I got to meet him and he was just a really cool guy. We hung out once when he was in News York, and I'm just really grateful I did get the chance to meet him and that he was a fan of the music.

"That was one of the most amazing things about 'Justified,' coming out of it having connected with Elmore Leonard -- not something we ever dreamed of."

Gangstagrass and AudioLogical perform Sunday, March 30, at the Magic Bag, 22920 Woodward Ave., Ferndale. Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10. Call 248-544-3030 or visit www.themagicbag.com.

Web Site: www.themagicbag.com

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