With their third album‚ The Infamous Stringdusters have once again gathered and blended their considerable strengths‚ this time working with co-producer and engineer Gary Paczosa to further refine an eclectic approach that draws from the power and soul of the deep bluegrass tradition.
All this is vividly present right from the first track: "You Can't Stop the Changes" begins with harmonized Dobro and fiddle lines twining over a chugging slow-train rhythm. Soulful vocals deliver a pensive lyric that rises from road-weary to uplifting on the strength of fine high lonesome melody and heart-felt vocal harmony. There's even the sonic surprise of a textured‚ almost ambient bridge section that‚ while decidedly non-traditional‚ deepens the song's mood.

Indeed‚ the Stringdusters' collective ability to build texture and contrast upon a bedrock of solid musicianship--and utter command of bluegrass tradition--is often breathtaking. For example‚ there's the cover of U2's "In God's Country‚" chugging along smoothly until it breaks down into Edge-like -- but acoustic!-- exploration of wide-open spaces. And then Andy Hall's octave-spiced Dobro break leaps in to pull the song back into its original pulse. This sort of thing requires instrumental prowess‚ of course; but it also takes imagination and‚ more importantly‚ a band that really knows how to play together.
Some reference points for the band's sound might be found in the likes of Union Station‚ Ricky Skaggs‚ David Grisman‚ and Nickel Creek. But the Stringdusters' approach--as songwriters and instrumentalists--to modern bluegrass goes even farther afield: With floating melody‚ suspended chords‚ and restless solos‚ "Taking a Chance" is redolent of mid-period Byrds country rock; the spacious mix and yearning steel guitar on the gorgeous late-night ballad "Not Tonight" help conjure a hypnotic mood that combines heartbreak and hopefulness as effectively as vintage Wilco‚ all the while coming much more directly from a country music perspective.
As if to remind us definitively of that country perspective‚ the band takes the album out with an old-timey-ish instrumental. But "The Deputy" is modern old-timey‚ with banjo‚ fiddle‚ mandolin‚ Dobro‚ guitar‚ and bass dovetailed‚ dizzyingly chromatic and metrically complex; the band tossing lines back and forth with rippling joy and ripping confidence.

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