With the release of their new album, Laws of Gravity, on January 13, and an ensuing coast-to-coast tour, The Infamous Stringdusters are on quite a roll headed into 2017. Last year saw the release of Ladies & Gentlemen, a guest-filled, soulful record that exposed them to a whole new audience, but Laws of Gravity is the Dusters as one mind, and one heart, that knows exactly what it wants to say.
This is a band that has matured together on the road, attested to in the thematic current flowing throughout the album, which speaks from a universal place. They have perfected the voice that has inspired so many loyal fans over the years, and they are now using it to paint their masterpiece.
The album starts out with “Freedom,” a bold declaration of our power to hit the road when we feel the need, which is complemented nicely by the introspective “Gravity,” urging listeners to appreciate the moment for what it is. “A Hard Life Makes a Good Song” is a testament to the origins of bluegrass and Americana music in the Greater Appalachia region, where music was a vital release from the harsh realities of traveling life. An honest look at the dreams lovers share, “Vertigo” recognizes the inner hesitation we sometimes feel about a future that may seem too good to be true.
“Maxwell” tells the bittersweet tale of a man with all the riches one could ever want, but his life was lonely, unfulfilled by the meaningful relationships many of us survive on. Hope is never lost with the Stringdusters though, as the final line of the chorus reiterates “Oh, it’s not too late.”
The Stringdusters are famous for their ability to balance lucid narration with otherworldly progressive jams, not forgotten on “Black Elk.” It is a high-flying, fast driving saga that serves as one of the album’s energetic peaks, while vividly bringing to life the story of Black Elk, a legendary Lakota (Sioux) medicine man.
“This Ol’ Building” is one of the loudest statements the Stringdusters have made to date; an open assertion that our democratic institutions are being destroyed from within, and if we continue to look the other way as a people, we will ultimately face the consequences together.
“I’m learning to let go, learning how to heal, but I’m still searching, guess I always will,” belts out Jeremy Garrett at the final verse of “Soul Searching,” which represents an undercurrent throughout the album that many of us are content with the road, because it means we are still moving, still improving.
“1901: A Canyon Oddysey” relives the Torrence & Fellows Expedition in captivating detail. This is a relevant allegory for courage, about two men who were surveying the bottom of Colorado’s Black Canyon of The Gunnison when they came to a seemingly impassable crossroads, either under angry waters through unknown rock passages, or back the way they came to accept defeat. The chorus begins “there’s only one way the water flows, through a passage no one knows,” and the explorers made the plunge safely through to the other side, symbolizing that same resilience that we’ve heard incorporated throughout the album.
“Sirens” has been played at Dusters’ live shows since last spring, and the instrumental has become a rallying cry for those that love to hear Jeremy Garrett take his fiddle for a dance, plunging in and out of fervent peaks and drawing us inexplicably towards sheer delight.
The album thematically comes full circle in the last few songs, which are about finding that solitude, or gravity, that finally pulls us back home, whether that is the one we left or one we have found. “Back Home” presents a different kind of road warrior, a defeated heart that is afraid of losing his home unless he returns as soon as possible. We all need at least a little certainty in our lives, especially in love, as illustrated in “Let Me Know.” Finally, “I Run to You” is about that home we can only find in each other; about finding the love that makes this epic journey of life, at the end, worth every step of the way.
Raleigh, NC – Lincoln Theatre – 1-12-17
The Laws of Gravity Tour commenced last Thursday at the Lincoln Theatre in Raleigh, North Carolina. Without exception, The Infamous Stringdusters leave it all on the stage during every show they play. The tour opener was no different, as the room eagerly anticipated every note, every transition, every little quirk from the tightest-knit band around. The show was highlighted by a rarely-played Chris Pandolfi original “Jono’s Farewell,” the live debut of “1901: A Canyon Odyssey,” and a raging encore of Stevie Wonder’s “Boogie On Reggae Woman,” led by Andy Hall on vocals.
Set One: Light and Love, A Hard Life Makes a Good Song, High Country Funk, All That I Can Take, Jack Straw, Jono’s Farewell, This Ol’ Building, The Hitchhiker, Get It While You Can, Peace of Mind, Y2K
Set Two: One More Bridge, 1901: A Canyon Odyssey, When You Were Young, Night On The River, Well Well, Big River, Gravity, It’ll Be Alright, Not Fade Away, Hit Parade of Love, 17 Cents, Home Of The Red Fox, Let It Go, Fork In The Road, In God’s Country
Encore: Boogie On Reggae Woman (Stevie Wonder)