Album review: Infamous Stringdusters, ‘Ladies and Gentlemen’

Clare Foster

Chick magnetism. The Infamous Stringdusters—Andy Falco (guitar), Travis Book (bass), Jeremy Garrett (fiddle), Chris Pandolfi (banjo), and Andy Hall (dobro)—have it in wicked spades. Lining up ladies they admire to each sing a song (Garrett, Book, and Hall usually do the honors) was an inspired idea, on display with grand results throughout “Ladies and Gentlemen.”

Ladies and Gentlemen

Folding right into the band’s bluegrass-grounded but untethered melodies, each and every invitee infuses her song — all originals by the band — with oodles of personality. Like the tightrope walk of dancers depicted in the cover image, Joan Osborne and the Stringdusters rise and fall in careful step with one another, a heartthrob rocker in a heart-beating, incredibly catchy song. No wonder it’s one of three featuring guest drummer Ian Fitchuk adding extra propulsion.

Lee Ann Womack then eases in on “I Believe,” country tradition as fine as sugar. The same can be said for the more intense and gliding “Won’t Be Long,” featuring Sarah Jarosz. Smart as whips they were to invite singers hot today, and ones that once were and still very much have it. Della Mae’s Celia Woodsmith leads the band on a middle-of-nowhere craggy path for “Old Whiskey Bottle,” and Mary Chapin Carpenter’s huskiness perfectly relates the nighttime drama of “Coming Back to You.” Most outside the box, “Have a Little Faith” has Joss Stone and the band cranking up grinding engines of soul to beautiful effect.

Bluegrass these days can go anywhere in the right hands. Berkley met and bred, and Nashville now, the Stringdusters are known for picking, sliding, and sawing with incredible agility and class through songs chock full of raw emotion — all of it wonderfully pleasing to the ears. But this really is ladies night out, and it’s extra-special indeed.

The Infamous Stringdusters
“Ladies and Gentlemen”

Label: Compass

 

ABOUT Tom Clarke

Tom Clarke
From pre-war blues to the bluegrass of the Virginia hills, Tom Clarke has a passion for most any kind of deep-rooted American music, and has been writing about it for 25 years. He’s particularly fond of anything from Louisiana, Los Lobos, and the Allman Brothers Band and its ever-growing family tree. Tom’s reviews and articles have appeared in BluesPrint, the King Biscuit Times, Hittin’ The Note, Kudzoo, Blues Revue, Elmore, Blues Music Magazine, and now, Tahoe Onstage. Tom and his wife Karen have raised four daughters in upstate New York. They split their time between the Adirondack Mountains and coastal South Carolina.

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