Album Reviews

Infamous Stringdusters

Laws of Gravity

Artist:     Infamous Stringdusters

Album:     Laws of Gravity

Label:     Compass Records

Release Date:     01/13/2017

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Laws of Gravity, a title derived from the unique and inspiring solace felt sitting at the ocean’s edge, and an album that tugged the Infamous Stringdusters back to their original plan. Undercover and Ladies and Gentlemen recently and quite exceptionally showed how the band performs on the songs of others, and with others, all over their songs. Laws has the Nashville-settled, across-America-bred ensemble making grand new statements, as they do, in their inimitable way.

Much of what’s labeled as “roots” or “Americana” music these days has bluegrass at its core, which is a good thing. The Stringdusters prove here they’re among those that make it a great thing. For guitarist Andy Falco, bassist Travis Book, dobro player Andy Hall, fiddler Jeremy Garrett, and banjo man Chris Pandolfi, bluegrass is the trunk of the tree. “Freedom,” the flexing of the muscles opening rave-up about finding one’s way in a divisive world, makes that very clear. Subsequently, “Gravity” impresses at a deeper level, with a pensive groove that undulates with the weight of the song. But then we’re back on the side of the mountain for “A Hard Life Makes a Good Song,” a clever little number with happy picking, fiddling, rhythm thumping, and especially five-part harmony that all belies the song’s name.

On it goes, the words significant, and the music always inventive, but also very reverent when called for. But also willing. A little funk behind the not-so-veiled political statement in “This Ol’ Building” makes sense, as does the light soul behind “Soul Searching.” Woodsy interplay at the back half of “Black Elk” astonishes, just one testament to the level of musicianship these men share. As writers, the band has a pact to credit all songs to all five of them, no matter who brought the main portion to the table. The reasoning is, if one guy makes any kind of melodic contribution to the perfection of the whole, he’s part of it. What a plan– executed wonderfully throughout this return to form that’s now a high water mark.

—Tom Clarke

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