Stringdusters sow new grass in Atlanta


The Infamous Stringdusters
Variety Playhouse
Atlanta, GA
November 20, 2010

The Infamous Stringdusters fall tour culminated with a lively performance at Variety Playhouse in Little Five Points (Atlanta), Georgia with special guest, bluegrass-country songwriter Benny "Burl" Galloway. 

imr_7352.jpgThe Stringdusters’ loyal fan base, bluegrass aficionados, and locals alike descended on Variety Playhouse for a brisk autumn newgrass extravaganza by Travis Book on upright bass, Jesse Cobb on mandolin, Andy Falco on acoustic guitar, Jeremy Garrett on fiddle, Andy Hall on Dobro, and Chris Pandolfi on banjo.  

The Stringdusters cracked it open with a prodigal number that is predominated by the country genre with "My Destination," a classic from the band’s 2007 album Fork in the Road. A tune about sowing wild oats and traveling home years later in search of a long-lost love, this track that came complete with equal instrumental representation, got the show off to an impressive start.

This progressive bluegrass sextet from Nashville toured consistently in 2010, averaging 2-3 shows a week, so it seems appropriate that so many of their songs are about life on the road and hard travelling. Though one may glean from their tracks that they might be somewhat road weary, this was definitely not even close to the mark in Atlanta. Rather, the opposite was true, substantiated by high energy that ran solidly throughout the tunes that were interspersed by folksy metaphors that would make Woody Guthrie proud.

The banjo and mandolin-heavy tune from The Stringdusters latest album, Things That Fly, "It’ll be Alright" was primarily punctuated by the fiddle work of Garrett. Proving that they have the songwriting ability to match their musical prowess, the  lyrics in this number are like a gentle nudge out of the nest, "Take the chances when they come / don’t wait for something or someone / you hate to miss a chance at life / go ahead it’ll be alright / take a chance it’ll be alright."   

imr_7294.jpgThroughout the night, the guys moved around the stage deliberately yet subtly, gathering in pairs or groups of three around the microphones.  Each artist was picking or sliding his Collings individually, but functioning flawlessly as one.  It was as though they were six legs on the same insect or six strings on the same guitar, but the reality was that they were and are six musical brethren.  

Next up, the band jammed "Fork in the Road," the title track from its critically acclaimed 2007 album. "Fork" caused a stir in bluegrass circles and paved the way for future touring success.  The song features catchy lyrics, interesting changes, and a sense of urgency:  "Someone’s got my pony, and I’m left here like a fool / My saddle’s on the fence, and I’m sitting there, too."  

The guys took turns leading this twangy good-time number, taking individual license in small jamming amounts. Mandolin player Cobb was vibrant as was Garrett’s fiddle jam and Hall’s countrified Dobro. Intermingled, they were collectively grand.  

"Magic #9" followed "Fork," then "Get it While You Can," and "Black Rock." "Get It," which is not a cover of Janis Joplin’s tune of the same name, delivered a healthy, twangy dose of "biscuits and gravy" to a hungry crowd, courtesy of some down-home Dobro and bluesy banjo/guitar interplay.  The audience relished in it, singing along at full volume.

The upright bass and banjo in "Poor Boy’s Delight" conjured log cabins and firelight. Travis Book sang this nostalgic tune soft like the wind through Virginia in June, serving as a reminder that the roots of bluegrass run deep.

imr_7289.jpgBenny Galloway joined the band with a little acoustic guitar.  Galloway is familiar to the jam/newgrass sound and scene as a result of Old Hands, his thirteen-song collaboration with Yonder Mountain String Band. The album features old-fashioned blue grass, gospel-grass, and soulful lyrics with timeless themes. Galloway delivered, blending as the seventh member of a sextet seamlessly on this night. 

Much to the crowd’s delight, the guys came down into the audience and circled up for an intimate rendition of "Sittin’ On Top of the World" as the closer. Though the tune has been recorded and performed by many, the vocals of Hall coupled with especially prominent tones from Falco, made this performance particularly pristine. 

Sure this band is "acoustic" and "bluegrass," but in some ways those words are too delicate to describe this music; Stringdusters is more like a well-oiled Americana-producing apparatus. It’s as though they pulled classic bluegrass off the shelf, dusted it off, wound it up, and put it back in action. This band is all about a careful, eye-on-the-prize performance from beginning to end. They did not disappoint, adequately attesting to the fact that folk is definitely alive, well, and kicking.


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