All genres of music must evolve – Electronic music evolved into house music – Rhythm and blues became rock-n-roll – And now bluegrass, one of the oldest and most revered genres of Americana music, has transitioned into a new era many are calling “newgrass”. With artists such as Yonder Mountain String Band, Leftover Salmon, Rumpke Mountain Boys and String Cheese Incident, bluegrass music has taken on new life, and even traditional bluegrass purists can agree that these groups have introduced throngs of younger music lovers on to the revered Bill Monroe and the Stanley Brothers, among others, who laid the revolutionary foundation for the progressive styles of today. The Infamous Stringdusters new release Silver Sky reflects the evolution of bluegrass in a powerful package. Paired with a masterfully produced live offering taken from four legendary 2011 performances aptly named We’ll Do It Live and a previously unreleased track He’s Gone, originally performed by the Grateful Dead, Silver Sky-Deluxe Edition is a must-have for any bluegrass aficionado, traditional or progressive.
The fourth album from the Charlottesville, VA based group is fueled with extended jams and songs that are sure to be favorites on the festival circuit like Hitchhiker, a song about getting away from it all, with Andy Hall’s dobro and Jeremy Garrett’s fiddle battling it out for supremacy. Just when you think the song ends, they fire back into it with reckless abandon complete with a difficult key change. Fire has a generous helping of funk filled keyboard work with Brookyln, NY dance-band Rubblebucket’s horn section adding a refreshing and surprising flare, and the radio-ready The Place that I Call Home, with soulful harmonies and a bouncy hook. When the Night comes Around, with ferocious fiddling, banjo picking, and meaningful lyrics, is another highlight, “Everything’s gonna be alright when the night comes around.”
The band goes all out covering the Police song Walking on the Moon, with upright bassist Travis Book pouring emotion into the vocals on this cover and Hall flexing his dobro muscles. At the IBMA bluegrass conference in 2011, member Chris Pandolfi stated that the Infamous Stringdusters are not trying to reach all bluegrass fans. “We’re not trying to reposition old bluegrass fans,” he said at the time. “We’re trying to find new ones.” If Silver Sky-Deluxe Edition represents the evolution of modern bluegrass, the future of “newgrass” is in good hands with The Infamous Stringdusters.