Stand for those things in which you truly, passionately believe to the depth of your core: the integrity of your work, the way you choose to do business, the people with whom you surround yourself. How and where you live your life.
A bit of a young person’s boast, that. Harder to live up to when the compromises of career and adulthood come calling. Which makes The Infamous Stringdusters’ insistence on living out those hard choices — and taking control of their own business — all the more remarkable.
As is the constant, relentless, revelatory evolution of their music. Pick-ups, in-ear monitors, lighting effects. Start there, for this is an acoustic band, right? Their live show isn’t a concert, it’s a performance, their music flirting constantly with risk and reward, the grip of the moment taking them way beyond the barriers of bluegrass, way out of that safe harbor where they began and into the deep waters of inspiration and innovation.
And they’re only beginning to grapple with the possibilities of all this freedom. High Country, The Stringdusters have taken to calling that music, and it fits. “The High Country,” says banjo virtuoso Chris Pandolfi, winding his more complicated, carefully reasoned thought to a close, “is a beautiful, inspiring spot, wherever it may be.” Yes, exactly. High Country is also the name of the record label created by The Infamous Stringdusters, and the centering spirit behind everything they do.
Seven years ago the band’s first incarnation came together in one of the doorway jam sessions, which are the hallmark of the International Bluegrass Music Association’s annual convention. Their debut, Fork In The Road, tied with J.D. Crowe’s release for IBMA Album of The Year. Now, banjo player J.D. Crowe is a bluegrass legend, and in the insular world of bluegrass legends don’t tie with newcomers. The Stringdusters also won awards for Song of the Year and IBMA’s Emerging Artist of the Year. Those are heavy honors if you play bluegrass. Heavy honors. Their third album, Things That Fly, produced a Grammy nomination for Best Country Instrumental.
Stand together, for these Stringdusters are gifted musicians, knit together: Travis Book (bass), Andy Falco (guitar), Jeremy Garrett (fiddle), Andy Hall (dobro), and Chris Pandolfi (banjo). Separately they can play, and play with anybody; together they have seasoned into a formidable, groundbreaking live act. Which is hard to do in these sated times.
“I think the beauty of what’s going on here is that the hard part is over,” Pandolfi says. “I think we all have the universal feeling that we will never find a playing situation that will be anything like this, even close to as satisfactory. And the beautiful thing is that when we came together it was a musical attraction. We’re five very different guys in the band, but there’s just such camaraderie, and that, above all else, is the thing that makes the music.”