Unlike rock 'n' roll, bluegrass music's boundaries are often defined in very narrow terms and that has caused some bands to carefully consider their place within the genre. But, in order to survive, everything must evolve... even bluegrass. Enter the Infamous Stringdusters, the very model of a major modern bluegrass band.
“At a certain point in our career, there was hesitation in calling us a bluegrass band,” guitarist Andy Falco admits. “These days, we’re much more comfortable with that label.” Banjo man Chris Pandolfi echoes the point: “We love bluegrass, but we have been influenced by other genres as much, if not more. When it comes to making music, we always try to be a blank slate and give new songs whatever they need to come to life. We just try to make something good, something that is true to who we are.”
On Laws of Gravity, that's exactly what the Infamous Stringdusters — Andy Hall (dobro), Jeremy Garrett (fiddle), and Travis Book (double bass), in addition to Falco and Pandolfi — have done. Their seventh studio set further proves that the band's collective whole is far greater than the sum of its individual parts, as the song selection and pitch-perfect performances weighs the Stringdusters' appeal to traditional fans against their musical quest to attract new listeners. It's a balance that comes naturally to the band.
Here, trad-leaning tunes like “Freedom,” “A Hard Life Makes a Good Song,” “Maxwell,” and “1901: A Canyon Odyssey” pick hard and soar high, letting trade-off solos and layered vocal harmonies work their magic. As it continues on, Gravity reaches its roots deep and wide, but never sacrifices the wings of the band, as exemplified in tracks like “Back Home” and “This Ol' Building” which pull from the blues and R&B strands of the Stringdusters' musical DNA.
“The specific feelings in those songs lend themselves to a soulful sound,” Hall explains. “The longing of 'Back Home,' the passion of 'This Ol' Building.' Slowing things down a bit, but still having a real edge and passion is the essence of that. And probably a bit of maturity on our part brings out a more authentic soulful sound.”
Indeed, the Stringdusters have worked hard to become the band they are or, perhaps, the band they wanted and knew themselves to be — a self-discovery process to which Laws of Gravity bears witness. “Once you start to move out of that, a lot of good things happen,” Pandolfi says. “You know who you are, and how to do your thing with confidence and experience. This colors the songwriting process as much as anything. We work so hard on the music, but it's not hard work. It's really the payoff, and it comes more naturally with time.”