Grey Season is the kind of band that could play a tiny store in Harvard Square or the sprawling Boston Calling stage—and both would feel just right. Stripped down or electrified, the five-piece folk-rock outfit has become a staple of the Boston music scene, a humble “from streets to the festival stage” story that can only be explained by their stirring versatility as performers. “We’ve had two separate lives,” band member Chris “Gooch” Bloniarz told us back in 2014, “an acoustic street life and an electric full-out life.”
It’s true: From busking in the streets of Boston to plugging it in for a packed festival crowd, Grey Season has expanded their sound over the past five years to fit bigger and bigger audiences. It’s appropriate, then, that 2016’s Out of the House into the Night—the band’s final album given the news of lead vocalist Jon Mills’ departure from the band—showcases Grey Season at the largest they’ve ever been. Banjo in one hand and electric guitar in the other, Out of the House takes your folk ballad and triumphantly slaps a layer of dirty rock ‘n’ roll on top. Although clocking in at a short 34 minutes, it’s a roaring culmination of their time together with plenty of twists and turns along the way.
In fact, the first left turn happens on opening track “Mixing My Medicine”; Grey Season’s bright, acoustic fingerpicking is nowhere to be found, instead replaced by a growling riff and a thumping drum beat. “Been mixin’ my medicine / Raw whiskey and Vicodin,” Mills sings, his voice pained and husky. It’s a slow, uphill trudge that drips in sweat, right away distancing the album from 2014’s folky Time Will Tell You Well. What’s to come is some of the darkest material recorded on a Grey Season album yet—all the way up to album closer “Rusted Pipe Dreams,” which abruptly fades out on the lyric “Jesus Christ, what a mess.”
But that’s not to say there aren’t touches of sweetness amid the woe. The twinkling mandolin on “Meet Me In the Middle” and majestic horn section on “Goodbye Jane” draw back the curtains and let in that sunny twang Grey Season has perfected over the years. Maybe coincidentally, maybe not, the songs where bassist Ian Jones takes the lead on vocals tend to harvest these moments—a distinct contrast to the wailing indie rock of most of Mills’ tracks. But while these different moods keep you on your toes, they do create a lack of cohesiveness when, as a listener, you want the pieces of the album to work together in telling a unified story.
Regardless, Out of the House gets closer than ever to the raw, foot-stomping passion of a live Grey Season set. Most bands perfect songs in the studio and then test them out on stage, but Grey Season flips the model—instead bringing songs from the stage to the record. Because of this, any fan will recognize tracks like “Madam Geneva” and the expansive “Brother of Mine” (perhaps the centerpiece of the album) from the band’s shows. Fans can rest assured that the studio renditions preserve the epic, messy shredding and impromptu “woo!”s that we’ve come to love about seeing Grey Season live.
So, come out one last time to support a band that’s brought a unique voice to the Boston music scene and helped put our town on the map as a hub of musical talent. Grey Season will be bidding us farewell with a show on Wedesday, April 6, at Great Scott and will be joined by local bands Lady Pills and The Dingo Babies, with a special appearance from Honeysuckle (a new group from Grey Season’s Chris Bloniarz and Ben Burns). Tickets are available here!
Stream the album below or order a copy on their Bandcamp page.
- Though heavier on the rock ‘n’ roll, folk roots are still there
- Laced with emotion
- Hooks are a-plenty
- Feels just a bit incohesive