Things That Fly

[Sugar Hill]

Since the late ’60s, acoustic string bands have taken the bluegrass format and pushed it beyond its strict confines. The Infamous Stringdusters fall somewhere between traditional bluegrass and those genre-blasting progressives—Things That Fly, the sextet’s third album, wouldn’t sound entirely alien to Bill Monroe, but neither should the jam-band crowd shy away from it. The basic instrumentation—guitar, banjo, mandolin, Dobro, fiddle and bass—is augmented by subtle keyboards, and the mostly original repertoire is broken up most notably by a spirited cover of U2’s “In God’s Country.” But for the most part the Stringdusters, save for the odd chord change here and the unexpected stretch-out there, prefer familiarity and restraint over experimentation. That doesn’t mean that, whether on a breakneck breakdown (“Those Who’ve Gone On,” Jody Stecher’s “17 Cents”) or a spare ballad (“All the Same,” “Toy Rockets”), there’s ever a moment when the Infamous Stringdusters quit impressing.

–Jeff Tamarkin

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