A rousing and resourceful band by any definition, the Infamous Stringdusters find inspiration in a traditional template while still allowing themselves the freedom to navigate their way towards the future. The instrumentation adheres to a routine regimen — fiddles, banjos, resonator guitar, mandolin, and high harmonies are well represented on their front line — but the music they make places added emphasis on melody. As a result, they place a real priority on songs that can stand alone.
In the past, the band seemed intent on pushing their parameters even further, but with their latest effort, Rise Sun, they retreat ever so slightly from that progressive stance and allow for elements that are of a decidedly vintage variety. Long Time Going is the most obvious example, given its down-home designs, but so too, there’s no shortage of revelry and rejoicing in the sonic stance found in Rise Sun and Another Night, the one-two punch that sets the album in motion.
They rarely aim for a distinct dichotomy that finds them favoring one approach over another. Thunder, Carry Me Away, Comin’ Again, and the instrumental, Cloud Valley, allow ideal showcases for the band’s drive and dexterity, while also offering a sound that is nicely situated between old school and new school precepts and sensibilities. And indeed, their assertive approach allows for a credible and compatible fusion of sounds and sensibilities. The uptick in energy never falters, but true to form, they vary the pallete as well. The subdued sounds of Somewhere In Between and Last of the Lucky Ones reflect the group’s sensitive side, just as Wake the Dead shows off their innate connection to funk and finesse.
In the heated debate between advocates of modern and traditional bluegrass, the ‘Dusters remain among the few who can excite both sides. The jammier tendencies that accentuate their live shows are rarely present on studio recordings, where the song, the arrangement, and the solos take the lead. And no one can doubt their grass street cred.
Rise Sun ought to appeal to the group’s devoted legions, the fans that have made the Infamous Stringdusters festival favorites. The band’s ability to part the clouds with a shine and a shimmer offers yet another example of their ability to excel.