Opera House: Stringdusters Return for Mardi Gras

Opera House: Stringdusters Return for Mardi Gras

Telluride’s Sheridan Arts Foundation presents a back-to-back Mardi Gras celebration featuring the Infamous Stringdusters live at the Sheridan Opera House on Monday and Tuesday, Feb. 8 and 9, 2016. Show, 8 p.m.; doors, 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $30 general admission on the floor; $40 reserved seats in the balcony. (The price will increase by $5 at the door.) Tickets and additional event information here or 970.728.6363 x5.


The Infamous Stringdusters visit Telluride so often, the progressive acoustic group is starting look like the boys next door. They return once again to perform once again for Mardi Gras at the historic Sheridan Opera House on Monday and Tuesday, February 8 and 9.

The Dusters first performed in town at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in 2007, which coincided with the release of their now acclaimed first album, Fork in the Road, on Sugar Hill. The collection earned the newbies three top awards from the International Bluegrass Music Association for Album of the Year, Song of the Year, and Emerging Artist of the Year, not bad in an industry that generally forces anyone wet behind the ears to pay big dues before commanding the limelight.

To a man, the Dusters are acoustic hotshots, who more than live up to their name: their formidable, original sound and instrumental dexterity blow the dust right off any available strings.

Tradition and innovation are the interlocking roots of bluegrass and its progeny, a lively dance of elements that skip comfortably from ancient jigs to radio ditties to spacious experimentation. The Dusters joyously embody all that and the spirit of Bill Monroe, John Hartford, Earl Scruggs, David Bromberg, and other originators. In their skilled embrace of this music’s twin gravitational pulls, the band moves dexterously between homespun legacy and creative expansion.

“What we do is a hybrid of the improvisational and bluegrass worlds. We take a lot of pride in that. While our music is our own concept, hopefully it does justice to the amazing components of the bluegrass world,” said Dusters Chris Pandolfi. “We love to present what we do but we always call on the bluegrass world of chops, technique, and traditions.”

Grammy-nominated, The Infamous Stringdusters – Andy Hall (Dobro), Andy Falco (guitar), Jeremy Garrett (fiddle), Travis Book (double bass), and Pandolfi (banjo) – are as comfortable at a dirt road pickin’ session as they are on an amphitheatre stage, whispering or roaring as circumstances demands, responding in real time to their surroundings, working the angles as they ply their craft.

Equal parts old school cats and modern operators, the Duster’s latest album, Ladies & Gentlemen (which just arrived on February 5 on Compass Records) spotlights the band’s gift for incorporating guests into their little universe.

They roll out the red carpet for an eclectic array of female singers, who lend their pipes to a dozen original Duster compositions: drum-boosted contemporary country bounce of “Listen” with airwave vet Joan Osborne; the classic Dolly Parton feel “See How Far You’ve Come” with Sara Watkins (Nickel Creek, Watkins Family Hour); the slow jam slink of “Have A Little Faith” with nu-soul belter Joss Stone; the contemporary folk breeze of “I Believe” with Lee Ann Womack; the rousing Americana soar of “Old Whiskey Bottle” with Celia Woodsmith; and the exhilarating style stew of “Hazosphere” with Jennifer Hartswick (Trey Anastasio Band).

Elsewhere Mary Chapin Carpenter, Aofie O’Donnavan (Crooked Still, Sometymes Why, The Goat Rodeo Sessions), Celia Woodsmith (Della Mae), Sarah Jarosz, Nicki Bluhm, Claire Lynch, and Abigail Washburn weave their voices into one of the group’s strongest song cycles to date.

“Something unifying carries across the different tracks despite the diversity. All of the ladies really brought something special, often melodically, to each song,” said Andy Falco. “They took liberties with what we gave them, which is wonderful. They adapted the material and made it their own, so the finished track was truly a merger of the Stringdusters and each unique collaborator.”

“The lineup crosses all these interesting lines, from genres to relationships to different generations.  It brings all these different things together,” says Pandolfi. “It has us playing with people that are new to us, playing with people from our scene, and playing with legends. When making a new Stringdusters album the challenge is finding the mojo – the heart of the matter – and this project has so much heart and mojo coming from all sorts of directions.”

Ladies & Gentlemen, the Duster’s sixth full-length studio release, follows on the heels of Undercover, an EP of inspired cover tunes that reflect a variety of interests and influences, tapping the catalogs of Pink Floyd, Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash and The Highwaymen. It’s another sign of the band’s desire to stretch and innovate even as they fully understand and honor the legacies they repeatedly summon.

“It’s a challenge we’ve embraced over the years. We’re a band that’s all about original music AND our own approach to old songs,” said Pandolfi.  “It’s always been our thing to find a new way to do this.”

A resounding feeling of rock-ribbed authenticity and charming sincerity infuses every aspect of what the Dusters do.

“You can’t fool an audience,” says Falco. “There’s a yearning for real stuff in our time right now. Pop music is so perfect today, but it’s sterile and the feeling inside it is being lost. When I listen to The Band, the background vocals aren’t perfectly lined up, but it’s perfect in its imperfections. That’s what you want to hear. That’s where something grand unfolds. That’s grandma’s spaghetti and meatballs. When you’re younger you think you want the Spaghetti-Os, but really you want what grandma is cooking up. As we grow as a band, we reach for more of those home-cooked moments in the studio, in concert, in everything we do.”

For a preview of the show, watch this video, featuring “American Girl” from Undercover:

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