Category: Infamous Stringdusters

Festival Coverfolk: Grey Fox, July 17-20 (Bluegrass covers of Tom Petty, John Mayer, Richard Thompson, Bob Dylan (x2), and more!)

June 25th, 2008 — 09:42 am

Walsh Farm: the gorgeous new site of Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival

After over thirty years on the same site, for most regular festivalgoers, the Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival experience has become intertwined with the landscape of the farm which hosted it, from the steep hill which formed a natural mainstage amphitheater to the even steeper hill which separated the entrance and parking areas from the main camping and festival site. So when the organizers of Grey Fox announced at this winter’s Joe Val Festival that the farm had been sold, and that they would be moving the festival almost forty minutes north to Oak Hill, NY, there was some serious buzz in the bluegrass community.

It happens: farms fail; festivals move on. And certainly, switching sites changes things around a bit for any music festival. Figuring out where everything goes in a new and unfamiliar space can be disorienting. But making changes is also a great opportunity to revisit and re-establish the very values which do not change, the ones that bring us together each year. When Falcon Ridge Folk Festival moved from one farm to another three summers ago, for example, watching returning regular festivalgoers try to figure out where their “usual” camping spot was on a totally different field made for a fascinating sociological case study. But it was reassuring to see how gentle and cheerful everyone was about the whole process. Once we all settled in, we found our old friends, and had made some new ones, to boot. And by the time the music started, the place felt just like home.

Which is to say: though landscape and terrain certainly frame the experience of any outdoor festival, in my experience, it is the community and the music which make or break a music festival. And given that, Grey Fox fans have nothing to worry about. Having attended Grey Fox for several years, I can attest to both its strong and welcoming sense of community, and its well-deserved reputation as the best bluegrass festival in the Northeast, thanks to wonderful craft and food vendors, impeccable sound production, tight sets and staging, and a performance schedule chock full of artists that will knock your socks off.

This year’s lineup, in fact, is one of the best I have seen, a veritable “who’s who” of the very best artists in the surprisingly diverse spectrum of sound that is today’s bluegrass. The list includes plenty of big names (see below), and many bluegrass community favorites, like International Bluegrass Music Association multiple award winners Missy Raines (bass), and Michael Cleveland (fiddle), both of whom impressed the hell out of me at Joe Valover the past few years. And the Grey Fox organizers have a good eye for new talent; it’s a slow year if I only come away with a couple of new favorite and previously-unheard acts by the end of the festival’s four day run.

There’s banjo master Bill Keith, who has been a mainstay of the Northeast bluegrass scene longer than most folks knew there even was a Northeast bluegrass scene. All-female old-timey bluegrass group Uncle Earl do a great afternoon set every year; if you haven’t heard them, know that they are often cited next to new folk artists (and Cover Lay Down favorites) Crooked Still and Sam Amidon as part of a rising generation of great neo-traditionalists. You’ll find plenty of current chartbusters, such as the Nashville-based Dailey and Vincent Band, who lean towards countrygrass. And those are just the artists who I didn’t have room for in today’s download extravaganza.

Today, then, a few choice covers from just a few more of the great acts scheduled to play at the new, more gently sloping home of Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival, July 17-20. Notably, this is just the tip of the iceberg; this year’s roster is so good, it was hard to hold myself to a reasonable-sized list. But like the above survey, these artists comprise a representative sample of the “best of the fest” in more ways than one, ranging from traditional bluegrass groups to artists pushing the boundaries between jazz, appalachian folk, and newgrass, and from up-and-coming artists to still-vibrant mainstays of the bluegrass scene. Enjoy, and I’ll see you in Oak Hill.

And don’t miss these other Grey Fox 2008 attendees which I’ve previously featured on Cover Lay Down:

Tempted? For a full list of performers coming to this year’s festival, directions to the new site, and tickets galore, head on over to the Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival website. I’ll see you up on the hill at the new, gently sloping site July 17-20.

1,128 comments » | Abigail Washburn, David Grisman, Del McCoury, Gibson Brothers, Hot Rize, Infamous Stringdusters, Sam Bush, Sparrow Quartet, Tim O'Brien

The Infamous Stringdusters, The Infamous Stringdusters (covers of The Stanley Brothers and Deep Elem Blues)

May 9th, 2008 — 04:37 am

I first heard the Infamous Stringdusters in 2006 at the Joe Val Bluegrass Festival, when they were asked to fill in for bluegrass supergroup The Grascals at the last minute — a lucky break for a sextet of relative unknowns who had yet to release a single recording. But my disappointment at missing The Grascals didn’t last long. The Infamous Stringdusters turned out to be my favorite kind of bluegrass band: young folks with high energy, incredible skill, and a tight yet easy newgrass sound, who lean towards fast-paced songs performed gleefully and well.

Since then, I’ve seen the Stringdusters a few times, and played their long-delayed first album Fork in the Road half to death. Songs:Illinois sees it too, calling them “one of the most acclaimed young groups that straddle [the] line between polished bluegrass and down to earth country.” And I’m happy to report that their self-titled sophomore release The Infamous Stringdusters is more than equal to their growing reputation in both the jamband and bluegrass communities.

The Infamous Stringdusters features the strong songwriting and instrumental talents of each bandmember on a plethora of catchy bluegrass tunes; as such, it contains no covers. But it merits mention here because it comes with an tantalizing bonus: if you pre-order The Infamous Stringdusters before the June 10th release date, you get exclusive access to an incredible full-length live concert recording, which includes two strong covers.

My bias against after-the-fact live recordings is well-known; too many suffer from crowd noise, poor mixing, and muddy sound quality. But the tracks from this April 15th show at the Fox in Boulder, Colorado are exceptionally well-mastered, with a high fidelity that manages to capture the feel of an Infamous Stringdusters performance without sacrificing one bit of the instrumental wizardry and genuine pleasure in play that each artist brings to the stage. The crowd noice is there, but it’s light enough to fade into the background. And that occasional hoot or holler? It’s likely from the band, who are in rare form, and know it.

Here’s those two covers from that show, plus a bonus version of Deep Elem Blues from Sound of the Slide Guitar, last year’s solo release from Infamous Stringduster’s guitarist Andy Hall.

Pre-order The Infamous Stringdusters from Sugar Hill Records today, and you’ll get the rest of this amazing live show as a bonus; pick up Andy Hall’s Sounds of the Slide Guitar while you’re at it. If you just can’t wait, or you’re still on the fence, head over to Songs:Illinois for an album track to whet your whistle.

And just in case you can’t remember who The Stanley Brothers are, here’s today’s bonus coversongs, two familiar takes on tradsong which might serve to jog your memory.

851 comments » | Andy Hall, Infamous Stringdusters, The Stanley Brothers