The Infamous Stringudsters are evolving as both studio and live performers
Special to the Daily
if you go
What: Infamous Stringdusters headlining Day 2 of the Yarmony Music Festival
When: Friday, Aug. 9, gates open at 10 a.m., with the Stringdusters’ set at 11 p.m.
Where: 4199 Trough Rd, Bond, CO 80423, in Rancho Del Rio by the Colorado River
Cost: Tickets for just Friday cost $80, and there are multiple pricing options including parking
More information: Visit yarmonymusic.com for tickets and more information.
Early in their 12-year career, the Infamous Stringdusters had a mission that was plenty ambitious.
“Originally, our goals were almost strictly musical, being the best improvisational progressive bluegrass-based band we could,” said dobro player Andy Hall.
That remains an objective, but over time, that mission has evolved.
“As we’ve sort of grown and matured, a higher goal has come to the forefront,” Hall said. “The idea of being like the hottest pickers or that sort of thing, it’s still fun, but it’s become less important than the idea of connecting with fans and bringing joy to their lives.”
There’s no better example of that mission at work than “Rise Sun,” the new studio album the Infamous Stringdusters released April 5. Locals can catch the band in action at the Yarmony Music Festival from Thursday, through Sunday in Bond.
“There’s really an element of an uplifting, hopeful vibe that we really wanted to capture,” Hall said. “We want to use the album as an opportunity to uplift people and make them feel good and hopeful. So there is almost this spiritual element to the record, and certainly not religious in any way, but just that there’s something deeper. There’s love, there’s understanding, there’s togetherness, and all those things have been infused into these songs.”
Musically, “Rise Sun” fits nicely within the Infamous Stringdusters’ catalogue, which now has eight studio albums. As on the earlier albums, the new songs are rooted in bluegrass. But up-tempo numbers such as “Rise Sun,” “Comin’ Again” and “Carry Me Away” possess both an energy that’s more akin to rock-and-roll. On these tracks, vocal melodies are richer and more developed than typical bluegrass. Combining energy and melody has long been a trait of the Infamous Stringdusters, but the group’s sound has grown more seamless over time.
In addition, the scope of the band’s music widens a bit with this latest collection. “Long Time Gone” has almost a cowboy-country feel in its twangy sound. “Somewhere in Between” hints at a mix of gospel, country and bluegrass. And on songs like “Thunder” and “Truth and Love,” the Infamous Stringdusters slow their roll while still finding ways to imbue these ballads with an edge and hooks that hold one’s attention.
Hill said the slower songs on “Rise Sun” accomplish something new for the group, which also includes fiddle player Jeremy Garrett, bassist Travis Book, guitarist Andy Falco and banjo player Chris Pandolfi. Garrett played solo here in August as part of the Vail Summer Bluegrass Series.
“This is one of the first times we’ve had more of a ballad type of song that still has energy to it that the crowd really reacts to,” he said. “It’s not an easy thing to do as a songwriter, to write sort of a ballad that still can rock you. It’s fun to see.”
The Infamous Stringdusters came into “Rise Sun” after a busy schedule that began with the early 2017 release of the album “Laws of Gravity.” The album sent the group on nearly two years of touring, and at the end of January 2018, it was named co-winner of the Grammy Award for Best Bluegrass Album along with Rhonda Vincent’s “All The Rage – Volume 1.”
In approaching the new album, the group did something unconventional — deciding on the sequence for the songs on “Rise Sun” before going into the studio and then recording the tunes in that order.
“We’ve always really wanted to try to make the albums have the energy and some of the positive qualities of the live show,” Hall explained. “When you do a show, you write out the set list in advance so you can have an idea of the flow and how everything will work together. With recording an album, for some reason that’s never done, it seems like. But it seemed so obvious for this one, if we recorded it in the order that it was going to be on the album, it would create that flow that happens in the live show.”
Capturing the feel and flow of the live show on the “Rise Sun” album makes sense considering how the Infamous Stringdusters have evolved their concerts over the past couple of years.
The band has continued its tradition of changing up its set lists from show to show, which keeps things fresh for both the band and for fans who come to see multiple shows. But in addition to adding new material from “Rise Sun,” the Infamous Stringdusters have taken steps to make the shows even more varied from night to night.
“We have a huge repertoire right now, and as of this year, we’ve really made a point to try to use more of it,” Hall said. “In the last year, we would kind of focus on certain songs that we felt were strong and we would do them more. So we’ve gotten more organized with having like song lists that dig a little bit deeper into our original catalog and we mix up the sets even more.”