Review By Steven Stone
Usually a band's sophomore release has a snappier title than the name of the band. But in some ways this second album is a first album. Original guitarist Chris Eldridge left The Infamous Stringdusters to join Chris Thile's Punch Brothers band. Another guitar virtuoso, Andy Falco, now fills his shoes. After two years of near constant touring the band's rough edges have been burnished and their sound has matured. Instead of a loosely knit high-energy amalgam of young'uns The Infamous Stringdusters have matured into a finely honed musical juggernaut.
The term bluegrass covers a wide swath of music. On one end we have Chris Thile, Bela Fleck, and Darryl Anger's edgy musical explorations. The other extreme is the conservative retro sound of Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver, the Del McCoury Band, and the Open Road Band. The Infamous Stringdusters sit near the midway point of the curve. Their songs feature the kind of rock-solid three part harmonies championed by Doyle Lawson, but their chord progressions occasionally veer off into less traditional territory. Mandolinist Jesse Cobb's instrumental composition “Golden Ticket" has the bounce of a Herschel Sizemore tune, but its B part and bridge lean well into the world of acoustic jazz. On bass player Travis Book's original song “You Can't Handle the Truth" the band combines smooth vocals with accomplished picking so the barn-burning pace seems leisurely. Just like the Grascals, The Infamous Stringdusters push the envelope far enough to keep things interesting without alienating most traditional bluegrass fans.
Produced by the multi-talented Tim O'Brien, The Infamous Stringdusters sounds polished without being too slick. The performances all have a wonderfully loose quality usually reserved for a great live concert album. After their first album won the IBMA's (International Bluegrass Musician's Association) award for album of the year, bluegrass fans wondered if the Infamous Stringdusters second album could match their first. They needn't wonder any more; The Infamous Stringdusters delivers big time.