Accorded a Grammy nomination for Best Bluegrass Album for their previous album, A Tribute To Bill Monroe, it’s hardly surprising that the Infamous Stringdusters would follow up with a shout-out to yet another indelible influence, that of Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs. As they did before, the band stays true to the original template, and even though it only includes six songs, the authenticity and affection clearly shine through.
As one might expect, Chris Pandolfi’s banjo is the sound that clearly comes to the fore, but so too, the other Stringdusters — Andy Hall (dobro), Andy Falco (guitar), Travis Book (bass), and Jeremy Garrett (fiddle) — do an admirable job as well when it comes to filling out the sound. In deference to the old school style of recording, the musicians gathered in the studio and recorded it all in sync. The instrumental offering, Earl’s Breakdown, offers the best example of that technique, courtesy of its seemingly spontaneous delivery. Yet at the same time, there’s not a single selection that doesn’t retain the sound and spirit of the originals, as evidenced by the absolute enthusiasm of songs such as I’d Rather Be Alone and Will You Be Lonesome Too.
At the same time, the heartfelt harmonies shared in Cabin on the Hill provide a tender touch that’s also well in sync with all the Lester and Earl vibe. Likewise, it’s hard to resist the honesty and enthusiasm that sweeps through two tracks in particular, Down the Road Blue Ridge Cabin Home, both definitive of the Flatt & Scruggs sound. The music rings and resonates with echoes of the Appalachian environs that fueled the inspiration Flatt & Scruggs found early on — before, with, and after their time with Bill Monroe.
Ultimately then, despite its archival origins, there’s something exhilarating and refreshing embossed within this timeless tribute. The fact that it comes courtesy of a newgrass band that boasts its own populist precepts makes it that much more of a meaningful gesture. It is, after all, something that the best bands do — that is, to pass the traditions forward and allow them to connect with a newer generation. In that regard, A Tribute to Flatt & Scruggs, like its predecessor, A Tribute To Bill Monroe, ultimately reflects well on the Infamous Stringdusters themselves.