Best Of

Best Bluegrass Band

by

With a minimalist lineup — often just banjo and percussion — Brooklyn-based Dubl Handi (pronounced double handy) reduces bluegrass and traditional music to the essentials: subtle harmonies and complex, rhythmic string work. Lead singer Hilary Hawke’s remarkable voice, deep and with just the right amount of grit, lends the ensemble a modern feel, and her mostly forward position in the arrangement lets you focus on the lyrics, a change from the dense and sometimes overpowering harmonies of the typical bluegrass soundscape. Hawke isn’t the fastest picker, but her clawhammer technique, lilting harmonic overlays, and often surprising rhythmic choices signal truly effortless virtuosity. Brian Geltner’s understated percussion, on a simple snare or a washboard, provides ample thrust, and both Geltner and guitarist Ernie Vega add swelling backup vocals at just the right moments. Rather than just plucking through the canon, the trio puts a genuinely fresh, revitalizing gloss on some of America’s oldest music — and that’s no mean feat.