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Andy Hall from the Infamous Stringdusters: Crack Open a Beer, Hang Out, Check out Music




     Since first bursting onto the scene with 2007’s Fork in the Road, the Infamous Stringdusters have established themselves as one of the truly cutting edge bands of the of the rootsy, Americana movement that finds bands ranging from Leftover Salmon, Yonder Mountain String Band, Justin Townes Earle, and Mumford and Sons all digging deep into the soul of old-time American string band music and reinventing it for the 21st century.  While the Infamous Stringdusters roots may start with bluegrass, they have developed a sound and style that is much more than that, incorporating hints of whatever the five Stringdusters (Travis Book – bass, Andy Falco – guitar, Jeremy Garrett – fiddle, Andy Hall – dobro, Chris Pandolfi – banjo) can get into their ears, creating music they call High Country.  Their latest album, Silver Sky, is the physical extension of this.


After a particular busy year, which saw the Stringdusters release  Silver Sky digitally in the spring, re-release a deluxe edition of the album in the fall on CD and vinyl, host their annual multi-day festival, The Festy, and continue to be the road-warriors they always are as they toured non-stop throughout the year, the band is already gearing up for their next album.  They show no signs of slowing down the rest of the year, as they  are still currently on the road and will close out 2012 with a New Year’s Eve run that will find them ringing in the New Year at the Jefferson Theatre in Charlottesville, VA.


Dobro-player extraordinaire Andy Hall took time out from all of this to chat with Honest Tune about their stellar new album, plans for the future, and the forgotten experience of really listening to music.




Honest Tune:  You guys are re-releasing your latest album Silver Sky as a deluxe edition.  It was originally released back in May, you have now had a couple of months to kind of live with the album.  How do you feel about it now a few months down the road?


Andy Falco: We feel great about it. We have teamed up with SCI now.  When we released Silver Sky we didn’t do any distribution on it at all. We didn’t put it any stores, so this is an opportunity to send it to independent retailers.  It is not going to be in a Wal-Mart and places like that. We want to encourage people to go to their small record stores in their town. We really feel good about it [the new album].  We combined it with the live record [We’ll Do It Live] and added the bonus track [The Grateful Dead’s] “He’s Gone”.


HT:  I love that track.


Andy: Thanks.  It wasn’t really intended as anything when we did it, we were just hanging out picking and Billy Hume [producer of Silver Sky] recorded it.  He video taped it. We were really just hanging out jamming and there was just a nice feeling to it and it was a way to pay homage to one of our heroes the Grateful Dead.

We feel great about the album, and are excited that people can go to their independent record stores and get it, and if its not there they should order it.


HT:  I am old-school and still love to have my albums on viny or CD.  It’s great to hear someone supporting independent local music stores.


Andy: Yeah in this day and age with digital music, you don’t have to buy our music if you don’t want to. We also have an archive with all of our live shows which you can access from our website and they go up pretty quickly after each show. So there is that experience with the digital thing, and that is great for getting music out there and into people’s ears.

Then there is the whole record buying experience which I think people, especially young people, are not experiencing music that way anymore. And I think they should.  When we got our test pressing of Silver Sky on vinyl that was the first time I had ever done an album that was on vinyl. I was checking the pressing to make sure everything sounded right, and it was the first time in years I had sat down with a vinyl record and had the whole listening experience, which is such a different thing than listening to tunes on your iPhone or computer. I am psyched that we are trying to get people to listen to music that way again.


HT: It is a whole different experience.  There is such an ease now to listen to music anyway you want, that the idea of making listening to an album an event gets lost.  The idea that I am not going to turn the on TV, I am instead going to grab a beer, sit in my chair, and really listen to this album is kind of forgotten.


Andy: Yeah exactly, you pour yourself a cocktail or crack open a beer with a buddy and you hang out and check out music. You experience it, rather than just having it on. Entertainment just moves so quickly and I think people forget to stop and smell the roses. Music almost becomes almost a background soundtrack to people’s lives – which it always was – but they are missing the experience of it, the social experience of it. 


HT:  That ease with which people can get new music also takes away that sense of searching out and discovering new music. You lose the thrill of finding something new.  There is no more build-up or anticipation for new music; you don’t have to wait until you can find some random copy or import of something at your local store. Or having to hope you see this small band you’ve just discovered open for someone so you can buy their album from their merch table.


Andy: {laughs} Do you remember the days when you actually had to take a chance on bands? I remember going to the record store with $10-$15 and browsing around and picking up a record and saying, “I heard this is good, but I don’t really know, I guess I will try it.”


HT: I have a large CD collection with some albums that I took a chance on that turned out to be not such a wise move.


Andy: {laughs} Yeah man, people have gotten really used to how easy it is to get new music.  I saw something on Facebook where people were freaking out because; someone young was on there just telling the truth by saying that she doesn’t buy music. Her attitude was why would anyone buy music these days?  And she was right. Younger people who weren’t there in the age of Tower Records and whatnot – when that is how you had to get your music – don’t know any other way to get their music.  So I think it is important to still provide an online way for them to get music, but still also have a physical copy in the record stores.


HT:  I think what people forget is that someone has to make this music, and if everyone goes and gets it for free, that band who worked their ass off to make that album isn’t getting any kind of reward and they may have to say, “We can’t afford to do this anymore we have to find real jobs.”


Andy: I fully support people who want to go out and use Spotify or YouTube or our archive and don’t pay a cent to listen to our music, I am fine with that.  But what I remind people is that if you do that with us or any other band, remember when that band comes to your town go to their shows, pick up a t-shirt or something. If you are not going to pay for the music, you can still support the band in someway. It’s important to always do that.  Just get a ticket to the show and be part of the scene. If you want to help a band out it doesn’t always have to be with money. If a band posts a video and you like it, share it with your friends.  Help them out, spread the word. That is all stuff that falls under supporting the band. That helps out bands a lot.


HT:  That’s a really good point, I think people do not always remember the different ways they can support a band they like besides just buying their albums.  Swinging back to the new album, what did you do differently or the same this time around when writing and recording Silver Sky?


Andy: You know what seems to be the same on every record is that we always have a little bit different of an approach. You are always trying to grow as an artist, band, and as songwriters.  In this instance we had a producer Billy Hume, who is amazing, who we met through our manager. He is just an amazingly creative guy. He doesn’t make bluegrass records. He is more known for his work on hit rap records, but he has a folk background and he is just a really creative energy that brought a whole other thing to our table. I feel his mark on the record is that he was able to match the energy of our live shows and bring it to the record.  It was an amazing experience to work with Billy and I expect to work with him many more times in the future.


HT: Since The Stringdusters and Billy kind of come from different musical worlds, was there every a time when there was a “language” issue when trying to describe or explain something to each other?


Andy: I think when you bring two different worlds like that together you are always learning from each other, finding that “that’s cool how you do that” moment.  But the end product is making a record, and whether its bluegrass, or rap, or rock, it is all the same thing.  You go in trying to make the best album you can, with the best songs you have, get the performance you can, and make the best statement you can with the record.  So there is definitely a universal language there we relied on.


HT: I think what you said about the album capturing your live energy is true. Your live show is one of your many strengths and Silver Sky really captures the energy of what you guys do on stage.  Do you find you write  songs for the stage and try and take them into the studio or you write songs in the studio and then try and work them out for your live performance?


Andy: You know that’s the big question what to do with that {laughs}.  I think it is different for each song. Sometimes you have songs that never make it on an album, but become a regular part of your live rotation for the show. I think the next time around for the next studio album we are going to try and road test a few more of the songs than we normally do.  I think back in the day, when you had a record label, the label would frown upon tunes being played from the record before the record dropped.  That is an old school style of thinking.  But really does it matter? We don’t have a record label; we are our own record label so we can make our own decisions about that. So it’s like, “shoot yeah man, we want to play these tunes.”

It’s interesting to play something in front of an audience and see their reaction to it. That’s really cool to see your audience and see how they react to songs. It is a great way to get perspective on those songs. Because ultimately when we go back to the studio – we are a five piece band on stage - but when we go to the studio we can add other things and other elements. When you play a live show there is an energy transfer from audience to band that happens.  You don’t get that energy transfer when you make a studio recording. So one of the ways to simulate that is by adding certain things, like a little bit of piano or an organ, or percussion, or stuff like that.  Like we were talking about, listening to a studio album is a different experience; it should be a different experience than a live show where you are performing the songs and you have that energy transfer going on to fill in those gaps.  I think road testing the songs on the next record is going to be something we do, and we are just always trying to be growing as artists and songwriters.


HT:  Where do you find inspiration from for the next record?  What kinds of things are you listening to – something older, something newer?


Andy: Different guys in the band listen to all kinds of music – from rock music to electronic music to everything. I think what is interesting is the similarities between trancey-electronic music and what we do with a kind of jammy music. It is this very similar kind of thing, just with different instruments. 

 I find inspiration myself in a lot of different things, by observing what’s going on in the world, or in my own personal life, or in my family.  I went to the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame a few days ago for the first time and it was inspiring. I thought it would be cool, but I didn’t realize how inspiring it would be. Holy cow, just to walk through there, it was so inspiring to see the cream of the crop of rock ‘n’ roll music. And it is really an interactive kind of exhibit the way they do it. They had a great Grateful Dead exhibit and a great Beatles exhibit. So that is where I draw inspiration from, and also from our peers.  We are fortunate enough in the summer months to play a lot of festivals and you get to see a lot of music you wouldn’t maybe get to see otherwise.  It all sort of gets in there and influences somehow.


HT:  Do you still draw inspiration from any of the older more traditional names in bluegrass?

 Andy: I think these days my exploration into classic bluegrass is not quite as common now as say me going and listening closely to a Beatles record or something like that.  Right now most of the classic stuff I am listening to is like Hendrix and The Beatles.  I am huge Mike Bloomfield fan – he is one of my favorite guitar players – and he is not a bluegrass player by any means.  We lost Doc Watson recently and that inspired me to go back to some Doc records and check that out again.  I have a tendency to kind of just listen to stuff that I really like, and try and put it into the context of what we are doing.


 HT:  What are your plans going forward the rest of the year and beyond?  Have you started writing new songs for the next album?


Andy:?We have our New Year’s Run which is always fun and I am looking forward to that.  We are going toTulum,Mexico in December with [Leftover] Salmon, Yonder [Mountain String Band], and Railroad Earth.

 Generally we have already started putting new songs together.  On this tour right now in particular – because we all live kind of scattered across the country – since we are all together we are really trying to maximize our time together and work on some new material. We have been working out some new songs and have been writing together. I am looking forward to getting back into the studio maybe in the spring. I think we should be ready by then.  We will be sprinkling in new material over the course of the next several months. You can count on some new Dusters material.  I want to encourage people to go to our archive and check out our shows.  Our man Drew Becker who does our front house sound and records the shows does a great job getting them up on there, so you can probably find some of the new material on there as well.



Silver Sky Deluxe Edition is out now. 

To see more live photos of the Infamous Stringdusters by Jordan August please visit here.

The Bridge show their roots on NYE


The Bridge  w/ Rebirth Brass Band
Sheraton Hotel Ballroom
Baltimore, Maryland
December 31, 2008

“The Casino Room will be open until 2am,” announced Kenny Liner with a hint of sarcasm showing in his voice. “They have blackjack, roulette, and let it ride.  All the proceeds will go to charity” he laughed before finishing, “so go and tell ‘em Kenny sent you and double down and shit.”

Despite the enticing offer, it seemed the best plan was to stay put and see where the rest of The Bridge’s set would take us.  And where their set took us was a journey through the band’s deep seeded influences and a chance to hear what makes the Bridge tick.

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Backyard Tire Fire from the heart

btf1.jpg“Today was the first day in my life I was able to listen to anything I have ever recorded on vinyl."

With unrestrained excitement in his voice, Ed Anderson singer/guitarist from Backyard Tire Fire, describes what for him was almost a perfect day.  “It (Backyard Tire Fire’s new album The Places We Lived) actually arrived in the mail a few hours ago.  I drank a Budweiser at like noon, dropped the needle on my own record and listened to what we sound like on my turntable.” 

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Al & the Transamericans in B’more


Al & the Transamericans
Baltimore, Maryland
November 13, 2008

With moe. on an extended break for the near future, it has given guitarist Al Schnier time to take his longtime side project, Al & the Transamericans out on the road.  With their recently released second album This Day & Age in hand, the country-fried-folk-rock group set out for a brief two-week run around the east coast.

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Grayson Capps : Rott ‘N’ Roll

grayson_capps_rott_roll.jpgGrayson Capps has always been equal parts drunken troubadour and soulful rock ‘n’ roller, and on his new album those two parts meld perfectly into what has been coined Rott ‘N’ Roll.  That name and description conjures images of a late-night, hell-bent lifestyle inhabited by desperate, seedy characters brought to life in Capps’ southern-blues-boogie-confessional-storyteller music. 

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The Bridge: Singing Like the Early Morning Sun

By: Tim Newby

Photos By: Sam Friedman



“You have to baby pick it,” says producer Chris Bentley.

“I thought I was,” the voice of Kenny Liner, mandolinst for the Bridge, comes over the speakers in the control room.  The frustration is clear in his voice.

 It is an unseasonably hot day in late March, but The Bridge – as they have most of the month – is holed up at the bottom of a non-descript white building located just outside the Baltimore City limits in Cockeysville, Maryland.  The building houses Bunker Recording Studio, the band’s studio of choice and where they have recorded all of their previous albums and are currently working on their new album, Blind Man’s Hill, due out October 21.

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Hill Country blues on ‘roids with the Black Keys in Cali

Black Keys
SOCO Music Experience
San Diego, California
August 23, 2008

To play drums in a guitar/ drum duo you have to have a heavy foot. With no bass to provide that needed thump, a drummer’s right foot has to be able to bring the thunder and fill out the bottom end by itself. Black Keys’ drummer Patrick Carney foot must be made of solid lead as his singularly powerful kick-drum drives the barreling intensity that is a Black Keys show.

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