The Infamous Stringdusters are, by now, well known to folks following contemporary bluegrass, newgrass, jamgrass or the sweep-up-everything category of Americana music. They are touring all over the country, and you can bet they hit the stage and power it up. Here’s the band: Andy Falco, guitar; Travis Book, bass; Andy Hall, dobro; Jeremy Garrett, fiddle; Chris Pandolfi, banjo. There is nothing wet-behind-the-ears with these guys as, by now, they have years of playing and session work behind them. They are representatives of the post Bela Fleck/ Sam Bush/Jerry Douglass generation. And that is certainly a torch they are carrying forward. They’ve got the chops to do just that, both vocally and instrumentally.
But let’s face it: a band like this one knows that they have to go out there and bring high energy. They are looking to hit you hard, jam out, and bring the festival crowd to a dancing frenzy when required– because, you know, it ain’t Bean Blossom any more. And there is more than a few prodigious young or youngish acoustic or acoustic/electric bands vying for attention. Clearly one way the Stringdusters are trying to get that attention is through their original material. Interestingly, all of the songs on this recording are given a band credit with a co-write credit to a different songwriter that is not a member of the group.
“1901: A Canyon Odyssey”
I was listening along to this recording, and, you know, it all sort of washes over me the first time. That’s not a critique, it’s a fact. So I go back and listen again, closer. Then I heard the song “1901: A Canyon Odyssey.” A story song about the Gunnison River. Since I’ve written a few songs about the West and western rivers, you know it had to grab my attention. I confess potential for future conflict of interest…. Let me tell you folks, real historical events, people and places are often excellent source material to start with for writing a good song. Other songs like “Freedom,” “A Hard Life Makes A Good Song,” “Maxwell and This Ol’ Building,” span the Stringduster’s collective ability to cultivate songs that they are lyrically engaged with, while also giving the listener a sense of their musical tastes and excellent arrangement abilities. That is to say, a band like this one wants to show you that they have contemporary lyrical and musical sensibilities, and they want to be able to take anything that strikes their fancy and bring it to you their way. They can throw out some more straight-ahead bluegrass sounding material, but they are more than happy to become loud and funky. We are in the days of bluegrass, folk and jam grass festivals under the jumbo megatrons (or whatever they call those things).
With Laws of Gravity, The Infamous Stringdusters offer up a formidable recording that will more than satisfy it’s growing fan base. The CD was beautifully packaged at Compass, and all lyrics are included on a separate folded page in one pocket of the jacket, the CD in the opposite pocket. These are the kinds of performers who you can be confident deliver the same kind of energy on stage that they deliver on their record. That’s no small feat.