REVIEW: The Infamous Stringdusters’ “Rise Sun” is Modern Without Loss of Traditional Richness


The Infamous Stringdusters – Rise Sun – Tape Time Records

Blue? Depressed? Moody? Nothing to do? Allow me to prescribe the new 5-member Grammy-Award winning Infamous Stringdusters bluegrass-rock album Rise Sun – their 9th.

Today I felt under the weather and this 13-track album, released April 5th — really perked me up. Right from the first upbeat title track “Rise Sun,” and then onto “Another Night,” — ripe with banjos, fiddles, and acoustic guitars. This is nothing short of an icy cold Coca-Cola going down a parched throat on a humid hot summer day.

In residence are the fluid and assertive guitarist Andy Falco, banjo master Chris Pandolfi, (2 Italian boys in a bluegrass band? Wow) — fiddle sawing Jeremy Garrett, dobro dynamo Andy Hall, and double-bass thumper Travis Book. What makes these musicians extraordinary? They play proficiently but have mastered the ability to make what’s old — new again. They’ve gone between the seams unexplored by others.

The vocals are adept and exemplarily, deftly balanced with the music produced. Modern without a loss of traditional richness. “Long Time Going,” follows a vocal path with Ralph Stanley instincts. For aficionados of this musical genre, this alone offers logically why they’re Grammy winners. An understanding of bluegrass made palatable to a younger audience who may ignore this music as old hat. Nothing old hat about this.

The most accessible melody “Thunder,” is commercially viable and immediately attractive. This music’s generally roots music, but these boys don’t play roots – they play the bark, and their music reaches out far like branches.

“Comin’ Again,” reminds me of the endearing, exuberant and still playing 70’s band: Goose Creek Symphony. Theirs was a generous wickedly intricate and satisfying performance style that Infamous Stringdusters follows. Always flavorful with strong backup singers. The music sears and it’s produced and recorded well. Every instrument/voice all plucking, strumming and singing in marvelous unison. The ingredients come together in a musical oven and out comes a hot, perfectly baked cake. How can anyone not feel invigorated and happy listening to this?

The song ends like the Goose Creek Symphony/Charlie Gearheart 1974 classic. (Medley – “Saturday Night at the Grange, Lil Liza Jane, Everybody Wants to Boogie, Black Jack Davy,” & “Plans of the Lord.”).

I’m impressed with “Somewhere In Between,” — another eloquent melody. The added harmonica, banjos and acoustic guitars, the bellowing bass – all perfect. Then, “Carry Me Away,” a fiery, banjo possessed tune. The beefed-up sound suggests there are more than 5 members. The instrumental runs are deeply affecting. This song excavates just about every bad feeling or sadness in a listeners’ skin. A borderline spiritual through its bluegrass notes but that under the surface rock drive is defining. This has a lightening fiddle solo and the banjo notes pour like a waterfall made of strings, rosin, catgut, and bows. Delightful.

The well-arranged and sung “If You’re Going to Love Someone,” would be a wise single choice. Maybe it is. This has words, music, perfect vocals, and playing that’s commercial gold. Throughout, no one dominates – yet, each provides equal amounts of solo by acoustic guitar, fiddle, banjo, dobro, and that ever-present deep thumping bass. Glorious.

Many tracks are stand-alone “hits.” Each has redeeming value, charm, and potential. The diversified vocals — always powerful.

The weakest track? The repetitious “Wake the Dead.” It’s a pleasant enough listen but — isn’t like the others. Can’t always hit the target. If there were any Grateful Dead inspired improvisations with this music it’s the seamless instrumental “Cloud Valley,” — quite an impressive hot workout jam. Jerry Garcia, David Grisman and members of Hot Tuna would be smiling.

From Boston, MA – these virtuosos have the bluegrass, country roots music pickers in Tennessee, and Kentucky scratching their heads. They do play well – most pickers do. It’s just that these string dusters set the bar high. The closer “Truth and Love,” is lovely. Nothing more to say. This memorable collection’s available on their website store & Apple Music. I’m going to go play this music again.



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