08 August 2006

The [Infamous] Stringdusters @ Club Passim

The stage at Club Passim is a bit small; spacious for two and more than adequate for three, it becomes comically tight trying to hold the six guys of The (now infamous) Stringdusters. (It seems they had to change their name--whether because of the rare-book store of the same name I found upon googling them, or some other cause, I couldn't say.) There's Andy on dobro, Jesse on mandolin, Chris on banjo, Travis on bass, another Chris on guitar, and Jeremy on violin--pretty much everybody sings at one time or another.

The upside of crowding this many musicians on a stage is that it seems more like a hangout session in an impossibly musical group of friends than a band. They sidle around eachother, trying not to produce any unintentional hijinks by whacking anybody with guitarnecks; Travis produces an almost audible cartoon-style whpp-zhyrm when he shoots up from the back to do vocals. With that many players onstage, comparing musical mannerisms becomes an inevitable game: Chris-on-guitar can only do certain notes if he's on his tip-toes; Jesse is impossibly fast; Travis watches people like he's trying to read their hand at cards; Chris-on-banjo is the dispassionate one; Jeremy is channelling Colin Meloy in style matters.

In their sound, too, the advantages of so many musicians become obvious: the different timbres weave and complement eachother just as nicely as the musicians. Their CD is coming out on Sugar Hill Records (same label is Nickel Creek), but no word on title or date; below is the best samples I could get--an excerpt of "Dream You Back" and one of "Letters from Prison"--"Dream You Back" showcases the nimble celerity that bluegrass demands, and "Letters from Prison" has some appealing harmony. They're only excerpts, though, so we'll all have to wait for the CD.

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