March 2007

The Infamous Stringdusters - Fork in the Road
Sugar Hill SUG-CD-4021
Format: CD
Released: 2007

by David J. Cantor

Musical Performance ****1/2
Recording Quality ****1/2
Overall Enjoyment ****1/2

Fork in the Road, the Infamous Stringdusters’ debut album, offers just about everything bluegrass listeners seek: master instrumentalists; clear, solid vocals that please alone and in harmony; and pep ‘n’ pathos in the right places. The one thing I would like to hear is broader topics beyond the personal. But, apart from the love of Jesus, topics have been historically few in this genre, and at least these guys don’t dwell on that one.

It would take more space than this entire review to list the players’ prodigious accomplishments before string-dusting. Their group photos look like a friendly version of high-school detention, but the list of artists with whom they have played reads like a bluegrass hall of fame.

Figure they probably hotdog it all the way? Not so! Discipline and restraint are part of this disc’s success. Instrumental solos showcase the formidable talents assembled here, but they take a backseat to each song’s inherent qualities. Maybe concluding with a lengthy instrumental lets fidgety horses out of the stable, but even there structure rules, complexity justifying the length. The crystalline recording lets you sort everything out when it is all happening, yet it delivers the individual strings of the most gently played lone guitar.

Nor do the group’s good songwriters clamor for center stage: Half of the dozen tracks are by non-dusters. Andy Hall on Dobro, Jeremy Garrett on fiddle, Jesse Cobb on mandolin, Chris Eldridge on guitar, Chris Pandolfi on banjo, Travis Book and Alan Bartram on bass: Whatever fine albums you’re already hearing them on, for the moment, they’re the Infamous Stringdusters.  Enjoy them while you can!