This post is a contribution from Mike Reed, one of our 2010 IBMA correspondents. Photos for this post come from Roy Swann.
The Infamous Stringdusters (Chris Pandolfi – banjo, Andy Hall – dobro, Andy Falco – guitar, Jeremy Garrett – fiddle, Travis Book – bass and Jesse Cobb – mandolin) closed out the Wednesday Showcase with a performance that demonstrated the many different paths that their music can takes in a single performance.
The songs from their recent CD “Things That Fly” demonstrate just how diverse this band can be. Kicking off the set was a rousing version of U2’s “In God’s Country.” The first thing that struck me whas the percussive power they put behind the song. While obviously there were no drums, the heavy chop of both Jess and Andy gave the song a power that is unusual in this music but perfect for this song. The following song demonstrated the ‘jam band” capabilities of the group, with an extended jam allowing each member to instrumentally explore the song.
This band is really a collection of very talented soloists that can also mesh together really well. This was amply demonstrated on the next song. It was a very jazz influenced instrumental with each member exploring slightly different territory from traditional string band expectations.
The band steered back to more traditional ground with Travis Book singing “It’ll Be Allright,” reminding everyone that these guys still know how to play it down the line when they want to. The band played with a real passion and Travis’ voice seemed to settle comfortably over the song.
Then, just when you thought they were back on familiar territory, they took a hard left. The next song demonstrated the influence of Dawg music, the jazzy acoustic music of David Grisman, with Jeremy Garrett channelling Stevie Wonder on vocals. Together, with the talents of this band in gear, it somehow worked.
Rounding out the set the band brought us home with a song back in familiar Bluegrass territory. The band displayed a close interplay that allowed the individuals to showcase their own skills while keeping the combination focused on the song itself.
In just a handful of songs, The Infamous Stringdusters took the audience on quite a ride, pushing against the boundaries of traditional Bluegrass but always careful not to break the thread. It was as if they were saying, yea, we go out on a limb quite a lot, we try a lot of new things and borrow from a lot of different music, but we always bring you home.