The Infamous Stringdusters
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The Infamous Stringdusters can be summed up in three words – hot young band. And we're not talking Paris Hilton "hot," but white, glowing, and incendiary as only six talented young musicians with everything to prove can be.
The six members of TISD (as I like to call them) are Andy Hall on dobro, Chris Eldridge on guitar, Chris Pandolfi on banjo, Jeremy Garrett on fiddle, Jesse Cobb on mandolin, and Travis Book on upright bass. Individually they have played as sidemen with veritable who's who of bluegrass performers, including Earl Scruggs, Dolly Parton, Melonie Cannon, Bobby Osborne, and Lee Ann Womack. Together they create some of the tightest modern bluegrass I've heard. Unlike neo-traditional bands such as Open Road, TISD include a variety of contemporary influences into its music, including Celtic and western swing. The band isn't as jazz-inflected or modernistic as Crooked Still or Old School Freight Train however. The players' take on bluegrass is closer to Lonesome River Band or Blue Highway. Rhythmic drive is important, but lyrical and melodic content drive the bus. Even on their instrumentals, such as "No Resolution," the primary focus is lyricism with forward momentum coming in a close second. Unlike Ricky Skaggs' Kentucky Thunder, a group who play everything at supersonic speeds, TISD plays fast, but not so fast that they don't leave room for syncopation. Even on the barnburner "Dream You Back" TISD never sounds rushed.
My advanced copy of Fork In The Road came in a plain slipcase with no credits, so I don't know who is responsible for the recording or what studios were used, but the final results are excellent. Given the potential sonic density that six instruments plus multi-part harmonies can generate, the sound on Fork In The Road has a fine sense of space coupled with enough differentiation between parts homogenizes into a wall of sound. Each instrument has its own special place in the mix.
If anyone tells you that bluegrass music hasn't advanced since Bill Monroe's demise, force him or her into a room with Fork In The Road. It should change their minds faster than Takeru Kobayashi eats dogs at the Coney Island Hot Dog eating contest.