Steamboat Springs With several strong vocalists in a six-man lineup, The Infamous Stringdusters are able to keep a relatively constant style without losing an audience's interest.
Not that losing the audience's interest is a threat or even a possibility. The Nashville-based, American-music-bred group proved that point with a standout set Friday at Ghost Ranch Saloon.
Starting out with a newgrass base defined by players Sam Bush and Jerry Douglas, the Stringdusters look back in some places and forward in others. Everyone in the band plays his instrument with blistering speed; banjo player Chris Pandolfi and fiddle player Jeremy Garrett have staggering technical ability, with Andy Hall on dobro, Andy Falco on guitar and Jesse Cobb on mandolin, adding frantic but educated solos on nearly every song.
Bassist Travis Book drives it all, occasionally adding lead vocals to his job of anchoring the drummer-less band.
That means the Stringdusters can tackle just about any classic bluegrass tune, shredding all they want through chorus after chorus. But in newer recordings and occasionally in their live show, the Stringdusters are after more than six-man-band virtuosity. During a long jam session toward the end of their first set, the six musicians worked their way through a spacey, disparate jazz arrangement before culminating in an unstoppable instrumental groove.
As with a few more of the group's original tunes, the song had lyrics, but it's hard to remember what they were. That's because the band's musical prowess overpowers anything it does lyrically - not a bad thing in most cases, especially when you're working a crowded Ghost Ranch Saloon into a bluegrass-inspired frenzy.
Songwriter Benny Galloway joined the band for a few songs toward the end of its second set, lending his smoother, wizened country vocals to a couple of laid-back tunes. The slower tempo was an uncommon break in the Stringdusters' performance, which kept a mostly finger-breaking pace for about two and a half hours.
Grafting their diverse musical tastes onto a solid, skilled bluegrass background, The Infamous Stringdusters are able to update traditional American music, bringing it to new audiences with what looks to be a sustainable setup.