Music

The Infamous Stringdusters: The Infamous Stringdusters

This is bluegrass for people who think they don't like bluegrass. And also for people who do like bluegrass.


The Infamous Stringdusters

The Infamous Stringdusters

Label: Sugar Hill
US Release Date: 2008-06-10
UK Release Date: 2008-06-09
Amazon
iTunes

"Newgrass" is one of those horrible, Brangelina-type terms in which the components are exponentially more insufferable together than they are apart. Generally, it's a musical hybrid that's too twee for the indie crowd, and too modern for bluegrass purists. Luckily, the Infamous Stringdusters have, in the vein of Old Crow Medicine Show and Chatham County Line, arrived at a sound on their second full-length album that pleases bluegrassers and hipsters alike, seamlessly welding tradition and innovation into an irresistible sound.

Unlike many bluegrass bands, the Infamous Stringdusters trade off lead vocals between bass player Travis Book, fiddler Jeremy Garrett, and dobro player Andy Hall. There's none of the Monrovian high lonesome falsettos that have been a keystone of bluegrass for decades, but the background vocals display traditional brotherly harmonies, quite a feat since none of the band members are related.

The Infamous Stringdusters doesn't have one bad song on it. However, one stands out from the rest. "Three Days in July" is a story about the Battle of Gettysburg as seen through the eyes of an adolescent boy who encounters a Rebel soldier. The song's refrain, "I learned things I never knew", juxtaposed with the strangely tender meeting between boy and soldier, displays both the horrors as well as the moments of compassion that occurred in the Civil War.

When the boys aren't singing about battlefield encounters, they're singing about love gone wrong. "You Can't Handle the Truth" takes the line famous from A Few Good Men and directs it toward a suspicious significant other, while "The Way I See You Now" is a regretful retrospective about, you guessed it, a failed relationship and the one that got away: "Time makes us wise, time makes us fools / I never looked in your eyes, I looked past them somehow / I wish that I had seen you then / The way I see you now".

The three instrumentals on the album let the mean pickin' power of each band member shine, especially Andy Hall. Unfortunately, banjoist Chris Pandolfi is underused, even on "Glass Elevator", the song he composed. Nevertheless, the sheer skill displayed on these instrumental tracks is proof that the Stringdusters can hang with the best bluegrass bands in the business.

While they are incredibly talented pickers, the Stringdusters haven't completely matured as songwriters yet (though in a few years they'll be churning out modern day classics), but they do have a knack for selecting songs. On The Infamous Stringdusters, the band enlists the lyrical prowess of Bad Livers' Danny Barnes on "Get It While You Can", another one of those food/sex songs that have managed to stay in vogue through the past two centuries. As with many of its predecessors, the food of love in "Get It While You Can" is biscuits and gravy. In the backwoods world of the Stringdusters, flour + bacon grease = aphrodisiac, and really, who can't get behind that?

On the downside, producer Tim O'Brien -- who knows something about mixing tradition and innovation himself -- treads a fine line between showcasing the band's talent and falling prey to overproduction. While the crystal clear sound is nice enough, I can't help but feel that the record would be improved by incorporating some of the raw energy of the Stringdusters' live shows. The clean cut, profanity-free nature of the Infamous Stringdusters makes them a band whose concerts you can take your grandma to. The diverse crowds at Stringdusters shows speak for themselves, and really, there isn't a more enjoyable way to make sure you stay in the will than this. Don't pass it up.

7

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image