The Infamous Stringdusters
Things That Fly
Sugar Hill Records
4.5 stars (out of 5)
Both in politics and music, the word progressive can be a controversial one, fraught with the baggage of whoever uses it. One might me tempted to call Things That Fly a progressive step for a band whose previous efforts, Fork in the Road (2007) and The Infamous Stringdusters (2008), were noticeably closer to what most people would consider to be bluegrass, albeit a rather contemporary variety.
You could call Things That Fly a progressive step for the band, but isn’t necessarily a step toward or away from anything, it’s just different. In fact, it still relies on the same backbone as its two fine predecessors: well-chosen or -written songs; engaging vocals from Dobroist Andy Hall, fiddler Jeremy Garrett and bassist Travis Book; and a sinewy instrumental sound propelled by Hall, banjoist Chris Pandolfi, mandolinist Jesse Cobb and guitarist Andy Falco, who adds occasional organ and keyboards to this effort.
The band’s seventh member on this recording is co-producer Gary Paczosa, who helps craft a warm, yet open, sound throughout that is worthy of great rock album, sometimes throwing in a vocal effect where on a more “grassy” effort harmonies alone would have had to do the emphatic job.
The songs here are all great, with the Stringdusters taking the rock thing a little further by crafting soundscapes that start as simple, clean acoustic riffs rather than as crunchy electric guitar tones, but two deserve special mention: a sprightly version of Jody Stecher’s “17 Cents” with country star Dierks Bentley guesting and a stunning cover of U2’s “In God’s Country” which evokes the feeling of driving through a desert all day with your windows down.
This one is a summer soundtrack type of disc and one of the best releases of 2010 so far, no matter what direction this band takes in future outings.
by Aaron Keith Harris