Missoula’s the Lil Smokies aren’t your average bluegrass band. Oh, sure, all the bluegrass stylistic staples are there — the acoustic arrangements, the lightning-fast finger picking, the twisty vocal harmonies. But how many artists of the genre reference David Bowie and Elton John in their lyrics, or sprinkle covers of Macy Gray, Led Zeppelin and Fleetwood Mac songs into their live sets? Listening to the quintet’s most recent album, 2017’s Changing Shades, you can also hear a keen sense of pop songcraft, and a sense of intimacy that makes you feel like you’re eavesdropping on hyper-personal memories courtesy of songwriter Andy Dunnigan.
— Nathan Weinbender