The tradition of bluegrass may be as old as St. Louis itself, but Elemental Shakedown isn't content to be a museum piece. The five members of the band come from across different corners of the country and have backgrounds in music about as diverse. They give the Midwest bluegrass scene — which often pits purists against progressives — a much-needed burst of creative energy. After a couple of years of playing pop songs arranged as bluegrass, guitarist Chris Helmick, bassist Matt Flory and funky fiddler Alyssa Avery brought on two long-time music vets to take the helm on staple bluegrass instruments. They struck gold, with Bob Stuckey of Indiana on banjo and St. Louis native Bryan Ranney on mandolin. Last year, Elemental Shakedown began performing original compositions that kick up against bluegrass' sometimes-rigid boundaries, exploring subgenres like jazz-grass, jam-grass, avant-garde-grass and, perhaps most wonderfully, funk-grass. To them, it's all booty-shaking, foot-stomping fun.
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