Infamous Stringdusters co-headline Susquehanna Breakdown in Moosic
MOOSIC — Denver-based quintet The Infamous Stringdusters was called “virtuoso” by the New York Times, and their music has been referred to as “keen, constantly evolving craftsmanship” by Rolling Stone.
Co-headlining Susquehanna Breakdown 2016 alongside festival founders and Northeastern Pennsylvania favorites Cabinet, the Stringdusters perform May 21 at the Pavilion at Montage Mountain.
The innovative collection of pickers blends traditional bluegrass chops and stylings with a desire to set other genres in a bluegrass context, improvise and push the envelop of what live and recorded sessions can sound like.
Their latest studio effort, “Ladies & Gentleman,” released Feb. 5, is a 12-tune volume, featuring a dozen accomplished female singers.
Joan Osborne, Lee Ann Womack, Nicki Bluhm and Abigail Washburn were among leading ladies in studio, and the record was met with critical acclaim.
Dobro player Andy Hall said live collaboration is familiar to the Stringdusters but finding the right way to approach working with many different artists in studio took some thought and discussion.
“It’s all original songs,” Hall said. “We provide the whole sonic scape and the background vocals, and the different singers sing the lead. I think it was a good idea to keep it a unified thing. There was something nice about keeping it streamlined.”
Hall said the Stringdusters have enjoyed playing songs from “Ladies & Gentlemen” live, including the slow, grinding rock tune “Listen” and “See How Far You’ve Come,” which he called a “perfect Stringdusters song,” because it melds bluegrass beat with a modern chord progression and lyrical content.
The new album follows 2015’s “Undercover,” a five track EP featuring the Stringdusters’ interpretations of hits by Johnny Cash, Pink Floyd, Tom Petty, Bob Dylan and The Highwaymen.
Hall said restyling the songs of others, while a bluegrass tradition, is also a means of musical growth.
“It’s good for us to learn what the ins and outs of these amazing songs are like,” Hall said. “It stretches us as musicians and songwriters.”
Whether the Stringdusters are playing their original songs, covers they’ve recorded or live renditions of classics like Jefferson Airplane’s “Somebody to Love,” they aim for authenticity of expression.
The imperfections — Hall prefers “characteristics” — born out of live performances create feelings that people can experience and appreciate.
“That’s the idea with being a quality musician is you take that humanness and use it to your advantage to make magical moments happen … that would never happen otherwise,” Hall said.
The Stringdusters and Cabinet have shared bills and enjoy working together, Hall said.
“They’re an amazing band, and a unique band,” Hall said. “I love what they do, and I feel like we relate to them on a lot of levels.”
The Binghamton, New York, native, who remembers seeing shows at Montage Mountain as a kid, also called the members of Cabinet great guys.
“We’re psyched to come play with them,” he said.
Reach Matt Mattei at 570-991-6651 or Twitter @TLArts