Jam Central Station 10.20.12: The Infamous Stringdusters – Silver Sky – Deluxe Edition
Hey all! Hope you’re doing well and getting ready for Halloween. I have my first real run of shows since festival season ended. Gonna be Umphrey’s, Keller, The Werks, and then my band playing a show all in about 2 weeks. Not a bad little run! Anyways, it’s time for an album review, so let’s check out the new one from The Infamous Stringdusters!
With their most recent album, The Infamous Stringdusters have become an exciting crossover success. Silver Sky highlighted their tremendous picking skills and songwriting ability while bringing in plenty of outside influences. This album has a great mix of traditional bluegrass, modern “newgrass” and some influences that are almost never seen in bluegrass music. What’s really impressive is how the Strindusters weave all of this together to create a very solid and exciting album.
What sets this album apart from others at least in part is the people that the Stringdusters brought in to collaborate on the album. This is a bluegrass album put together by people who aren’t typically bluegrass folks. Billy Hume produced the album, even though he’s best known for his work with hip-hop artists like Nas. His influence helped shape the songs and move them away from the traditional fast-paced bluegrass and into a different style of songwriting. The result is an album with some of the most accessible bluegrass songs that I’ve heard in a long time.
The album starts off with “Don’t Mean Nothin’,” and it’s a song that shows the philosophy of the album very well. It’s got a very cool rock/bluegrass feel to it, and it gets right to the point. At just over 2 minutes there’s not a ton of time for things to develop but the main riff of the song is definitely good enough to carry it. “Rockets” is a little more of a traditional bluegrass ballad, although the soloing is still kept relatively short. The song also has some great harmonized vocals, blending the voices of all of the band members. It’s always impressive how bluegrass musicians have to not only be able to play their instruments at such a high level but also be able to sing and harmonize. “The Hitchhiker” is one of the longest songs on the album, even though it’s slightly under 5 minutes. It’s definitely one of the most interesting bluegrass tunes as well. It starts off fast paced with a unique breakdown in the middle of the song. Within the first three songs of the album, the band went through three different styles while maintaining their own presence.
“Tears of the Earth” is another song that gives a lot of focus to the harmonies of the group. By this point in the album I realized that I’m listening to more of a folk/rock oriented album with bluegrass instruments, and less of a bluegrass album. Solid songwriting and just enough soloing to break things up, but the focus is as much on the vocals and lyrics as the instrumentation. “The Place That I Call Home” is probably the best-arranged song on the album, with real depth from the instruments. It’s not easy to layer the various stringed instruments that make up a bluegrass band, and this song is a tremendous example of keeping things well blended without sounding muddled. “Like I Do” has a great rhythm to it, starting out slow and quiet before rising to a crescendo near the end. The violin plays a prominent role as well with a nice solo and riff behind the vocals. “Heady Festy,” the only instrumental track on the album, keeps this nice rising feel as well. It’s a great little break in the middle of the album. It’s certainly not a traditional bluegrass instrumental, but instead it’s a well put together way to break up the album a bit.
“Night on the River” is probably the most traditional bluegrass track on the album. Some great dobro work keeps the solos moving and the violin again is a highlight. No instrument takes over the song, and everyone gets a little slice to show off. “When The Night Comes Around” is the fastest-picking song on the album. It’s not blistering, but there’s more rhythmic strumming and picking than on much of the rest of the album. I actually would’ve liked it if this song was extended by a bit, but it’s pretty obvious that on this album the band wanted to keep things quick and concise. “Fire” is a very unique track. The band brought in the Rubblebucket Horns for this song, adding a distinct New Orleans flair to the song. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a mix of bluegrass and New Orleans, but it works very well. It’s a fun song, and frankly I wouldn’t have minded some more horns on the song. Either way, this is unlike any bluegrass that I’ve heard before, but it still works extremely well.
The album closes with a pair of cover songs. “Walking on the Moon” is a Police cover, which still includes the Rubblebucket Horns. It’s not the type of cover you’d expect from a bluegrass band, but you also wouldn’t expect a bluegrass band to work with the Rubblebucket Horns or Billy Hume either. I think this version is as good as the original. It’s a completely different feel, leaving behind Sting’s odd vocal cadence for something a little more accessible while adjusting the 80’s pop style to fit the band. It’s not bluegrass, it’s not New Orleans, and it’s certainly not New Wave, but instead some odd combination of all three. With the new Deluxe edition, they included an extra track, a cover of The Grateful Dead’s “He’s Gone.” The Grateful Dead were able to do some great bluegrass, and this is a solid bluegrass cover of a classic Dead tune. The vocals are (in my opinion) an improvement over the original, and the Stringdusters stay true to the original without getting into any meandering soloing.
The release of this deluxe edition is obviously an attempt to keep the momentum going that The Infamous Stringdusters have built over the past 6 months or so. If the only extra that this deluxe edition offered was the cover of “He’s Gone” I’d say it was a bad plan. But along with the bonus cover, fans who purchase the deluxe edition also get a copy of We’ll Do It Live, a live album that the group released last year. If you haven’t purchased either Silver Sky or We’ll Do It Live then this is a great combo. If you have both albums already, then I’m sure you can pick up the cover of “He’s Gone” off of iTunes without re-purchasing the albums. But The Infamous Stringdusters have earned the buzz that they’ve been generating recently. This is definitely a step in the right direction for the band.
Trey confirms new Phish album
In a radio interview this week, Trey Anastasio confirmed that Phish are preparing to enter the studio to record a new album. The album will be the second since the band returned in 2009 from their hiatus and their follow-up to Joy.
Bridge School Benefit to stream online
This year’s Bridge School Benefit will be streaming on Facebook. The event will feature Neil Young, jack White, Guns N’ Roses, The Flaming Lips, and many other artists in an acoustic setting. Anyone who donates $5 or more will be able to watch the stream.
Grateful Dead release set for Black Friday
The Grateful Dead will be releasing a new live performance on Black Friday as a part of Record Store Day. The album will feature the show from May 30, 1971, which included songs like Bobby McGee, Loser, Good Lovin’, China Cat, Casey Jones, and Johny B. Goode.
Infamous Stringdusters set New Years plans
The Infamous Stringdusters will be doing a 4-night New Years run down the east coast. The run will start in New York City and end up in Charlottesville VA on the 31st.
December 27 New York NY—Bowery Ballroom
December 28 Philadelphia PA—Union Transfer
December 29 Falls Church VA—State Theater
December 31 Charlottesville VA—Jefferson Theater
Pretty Lights and Bassnectar announce joint shows, individual New Years shows
Bassnectar and Pretty Lights will be doing a pair of shows together right before their respective New Years runs. They’ll be co-headlining the Hampton Coliseum on December 27-28, with each artist headlining one of the nights. After that Bassnectar will head to the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville for New Years Eve, while Pretty Lights will do a pair of shows at the Roseland Ballroom in New York.
Ultra Music Festival goes to 2 weekends
Keeping up with some of the country’s biggest festivals, the Ultra Music Festival will be running over two weekends next year. The event will be held in Miami on March 15-17 and again on March 22-24. This is the first time an EDM festival has gone to 2 weekends.
Bridge School Benefit
October 20-21, 2012
Mountain View, CA
Performers include: Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Jack White, Guns ‘n Roses, The Flaming Lips, Sarah McLachlin, Gary Clark Jr., and many others.
Southern Ground Food & Music Festival
Performers include: Zac Brown Band (both nights), The Avett Brothers, Grace Potter & The Nocturnals, The Charlie Daniels Band, Michael Franti & Spearhead, The Wailers, Jerry Douglas, and many others
Hangtown Halloween Ball
October 26-28, 2012
El Dorado County Fairgrounds
Performers include: Railroad Earth (3 shows), The Del McCoury Band, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe performing a Beastie Boys tribute, Blind Pilot, The Travelin’ McCoury’s featuring Keller Williams, Emmitt-Nershi Band, The Infamous Stringdusters, Greensky Bluegrass, and many more.
Voodoo Music and Arts Festival
October 26-28, 2012
New Orleans, LA
Performers include: Green Day, Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Jack White, Avett Brothers, Skrillex, Coheed & Cambria, Nas, Gary Clark Jr., and many others
With Your Friends Festival
October 26-27, 2012
Performers include: Pretty Lights, Skrillex, Santigold, Nas, 12th Planet, Michael Menart, and many others.
November 8-11, 2012
Spirit of the Suwanee Music Park
Live Oaks, FL
Performers include: Umphrey’s McGee, Soulive, Lotus, Perpetual Groove, Break Science, The Heavy Pets, and many others.
Strings & Sol
December 12-16, 2012
Dreams Tulum Resort & Spa
Yonder Mountain String Band will perform 3 shows, and Railroad Earth, Leftover Salmon, and The Infamous Stringdusters will each be performing 2 shows.
Warren Haynes Christmas Jam
December 15, 2012
US Cellular Civic Center
Performers include: Warren Haynes Band, String Cheese Incident, Blind Boys of Alabama, Sheryl Crow, Trombone Shorty, and many others.
December 16-19, 2012 (Bahamas)
December 19-23, 2012 (Jamaica)
Departing from Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Performers include: Pulp, Hot Chip, Yeasayer, Girl Talk, James Murphy, Sleigh Bells, and many others.
December 17-21, 2012
Dreams Tulum Resort & Spa
Umphrey’s McGee, The Disco Biscuits, and STS9 will each perform two shows. STS9 will also perform a special midnight set commemorating the beginning of the new Great Cycle of the Mayan Calendar.
January 7-12, 2013
Performers include: moe., Medeski, Martin, Scofield & Wood, Funky Meters, Galactic, Karl Denson’s Tiny Univers, Big Gigantic, Lettuce, ALO, Tea Leaf Green, Greensky Bluegrass, Hot Buttered Rum, and many others.
Island Exodus IV
January 16-20, 2013
Gov’t Mule will host the event and perform multiple sets. No word on other performers.
Panic En La Playa Dos
January 27-31, 2013
Hard Rock Hotel & Casino
Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
This event will be the return of Widespread Panic to the stage after a year-long hiatus. Tickets go on sale August 24.
Jam in the Sand
March 1-5, 2013
Breezes Grand Resort
Dark Star Orchestra’s first Jamaican event. This event will feature multiple DSO shows as well as three Keller Williams sets and other activities
Ultra Music Festival
March 15-17, 2013
March 22-24, 2013
April 12-14, 2013
April 19-21, 2013
Governors Ball Music Festival
June 8-9, 2013
New York City, NY
Newport Folk Festival
July 27-28, 2013
Newport Jazz Festival
Austin City Limits
October 4-6, 2013
October 11-13, 2013
Thanks again for stopping by. Please remember to check out more Jam Central Station on Facebook and Twitter, and remember to enter my contest to win tickets to see The Werks on Halloween. Until next week, Jam On!