Grassholes release bluegrass “Greensleeves,” hope to help neighbors

Maine’s pre-eminent bluegrass band, The World Famous Grassholes, announce today the release of their Christmas single, “Greensleeves,” a bluegrass take on the 16th-century folk ballad, the music for which has come to back Christmas jingles like “What Child Is This?” by William Chatterton Dix. Sales of the track will benefit the First Congregational Church’s Emergency Fuel Assistance Fund here in New Gloucester.

The band will celebrate the song’s release with “A Very Grassholes Christmas” at Little Tap House, in Portland, December 22, at 7 p.m. Admission is free, with charitable donations encouraged. 

All instrumental, and ringing with the haunting glow of a banjo in minor key, the Grassholes’ take on “Greensleeves” soars with classical fiddle before being yanked back into bluegrass by a hot flat-picked guitar lead. 

The song was recorded live in banjo player Field Rider’s restored 1800s barn in New Gloucester, capably captured by sound engineer Matthew Nelson, currently studying at the USM School of Music. The track resonates with the feel of wood milled from Rider’s land and the warmth of a woodstove burning in the corner. Even better, the all-acoustic, minimally mic’d recording session feels like an homage to the time when the song was first written, so long ago that characters in Shakespeare’s “Merry Wives of Windsor” make reference to it (though there appears to be no truth to the idea that it was composed by Henry VIII as an ode to Boleyn).

And in a nod to the giving season, the Grassholes are asking people to buy the track through Bandcamp, where it is exclusively hosted, so that every dollar collected can go to the First Congregational Church’s Emergency Fuel Assistance Fund here in New Gloucester, Maine (though, of course, people can listen to the song for free if they’d like through the streaming part of the service). All indications are that it may be a rough winter for many, with fuel prices at historical highs, and everyone deserves a warm place to sleep at night. 

The First Congregational Church also holds a special place in the hearts of the Grassholes, as they were kind enough to offer their space as a rehearsal spot for the Grassholes during the pandemic, which allowed the band a socially distanced way of keeping up their chops. The pristine sound in the sanctuary allowed the five-piece band to be far apart and still hear each other well enough to work on material. 

Finally, the Grassholes will celebrate the release of the track and the Christmas season with “A Very Grassholes Christmas,” a show to be held at the Little Tap House, in Portland, on Dec. 22, at 7 p.m. Admission to the show is free, but the band will be asking attendees to do their part by giving to whatever local charity is closest to their hearts this holiday season. And, of course, the Grassholes may decide to trade in their classic hats and boots attire for something more … seasonally appropriate.