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Infamous Stringdusters: overnight success leads to dealing with soph slump

By Greg Yost, June 2008

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"Stylistically we've really broadened the circle that our band encompasses," says Book.

To help bring this unique musical vision to life, the group called on Tim O'Brien, a true luminary of acoustic music, to produce. When asked why O'Brien was selected to produce the record, Book answers. "Tim is probably one of the most consistent across-the-board influences in the band."

"Everybody in the band will cite him as a major influence, and when he agreed to work with us on the record, it was really huge for us."

"Tim O'Brien was perfect for our band. We needed someone who was really focused on the song, focused on an organic approach to making a record," Book says. "The phrase ‘dream producer' gets thrown around, and I hate how it sounds, but it's so true in this case. He was great."

Under O'Brien's deft supervision, the group used The Infamous Stringdusters to showcase the individual talents within the band while also displaying the magic that is created when these accomplished musicians click as a unified ensemble.

Even though the members of The Stringdusters have been recognized for their work as a straight bluegrass group, they have also demonstrated a real proclivity for the kind of improvisational jamming commonly associated with bands categorized as newgrass or jamgrass.

"We're still really exploring new sounds, new textures and learning to improvise with each other and trying to take the music farther," says Book.

As displayed on the album, one of the greatest strengths of The Stringdusters is that all six are also accomplished songwriters, thus giving the group a seemingly endless supply of songs reflecting a broad range of voices and styles.

Book says, "We all write songs, and we all bring them to the band, and we play them, and the one's that work we keep playing."

With these many voices contributing to a singular musical statement, it can sometimes be a real balancing act keeping everyone happy and involved in the creative process. "Collaborating as a band, it's not always the easiest thing figuring out what songs are going to work and keeping everybody happy, but for the most part that's really one of the things we are unified on," says Book.

Along with the songs written by members of the band, the album also features contributions from some of the best songwriters in the industry. "Three Days in July," penned by Jon Weisberger and Mark Simos, is a touching Civil War ballad focused on the famous 1863 conflict in Gettysburg, while "Lovin' You" from singer/songwriter Sarah Siskind is a haunting meditation that steadily builds to an improvised instrumental release, resulting in one of the real musical highlights of the album.

"Lovin' You" has a history with the band that predates the recording of the album. Long a fan-favorite in the group's concerts, there was little doubt that the track needed to be included. "People really like that song," says Book. "We just decided we had to put it on there."

By augmenting the band members' best songwriting work with tracks from some of the industry's most talented writers and by combining the stellar musicianship of the band with O'Brien's considerable skills in the studio, the band has created a potent mix that makes The Infamous Stringdusters easily stand out as one of the best bluegrass albums of the year so far.

The immediate future is looking very bright for The Infamous Stringdusters. The band will be touring throughout the remainder of the year. "For the rest of the summer that's what we are doing, we're playing a lot of big festivals, doing a lot of traveling," says Book. "This fall we'll be buckling down and doing some more hard-touring, some big stretches of touring and doing more clubs."

Book also talks about how the band will continue to try and expand its audience base, "We're just really hoping to take our music further, get in front of some more jam band audiences and maybe play some major country festivals, some more folk festivals."

The Infamous Stringdusters' recent success has also created some new and unique opportunities to showcase the band's music. "We're working now with Lionsgate Films. We're working on getting our music placed in some television or movies," explains Book. "There's possibly some scoring opportunities that might come up for doing some full films with them."

Along with the collaborative work of the ensemble, the individual members are also working on plans of their own. "You're going to see a lot more solo projects coming out of the band just because everybody writes so much, and there's only so many tracks on the record," says Book."

Although the band's brief history has been marked by a constant string of successes, Book seems to think that the best may be yet to come for The Infamous Stringdusters, "We're always trying to figure out exactly who we are or what we are as a band at the moment and always experimenting with new sounds and new textures and new ideas," he says. "I think we're feeling good about the way things are heading."

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