The Infamous Stringdusters

Laws of Gravity

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While they're inarguably superb pickers well versed in bluegrass traditions, the Infamous Stringdusters have always been a group eager to push at the accepted boundaries of the genre, and 2017's Laws of Gravity, their seventh studio album, exists in a middle ground between progressive bluegrass and contemporary singer/songwriter sensibilities. The 13 tracks give the players plenty of room to show off their technical skills, but the Stringdusters have clearly devoted plenty of energy to their songwriting. Laws of Gravity is full of compact narratives about remarkable lives ("Maxwell," "Black Elk"), grand adventures ("1901: A Canyon Odyssey," "Back Home"), and the ups and downs of a well-lived life ("This Ol' Building," "Freedom," "A Hard Life Makes a Good Song"). The Stringdusters put enough focus on the songwriting for Laws of Gravity that they brought in a handful of guest writers for these tunes, though the results still bear the group's sonic signature, and the efforts at better storytelling don't mean they've cut back on the soloing. In fact, one might argue that the Infamous Stringdusters should have aimed for something a bit more concise; as fine as the instrumental work is on these sessions, this album seems a bit overstuffed by the time it gets to the three-quarter point as the band jams between verses, and the final track, "I Run to You," literally seems to run out of gas rather than come to a natural conclusion. All the ingredients in Laws of Gravity are top-shelf, but the Infamous Stringdusters have a bit of a problem with the proportions, and it's not hard to imagine this would be a much more enjoyable album with a bit of editing in the right places.

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