The Infamous Stringdusters  feat: Nicki Bluhm

The Infamous Stringdusters feat: Nicki Bluhm

The Infamous Stringdusters (9:00 PM)

Della Mae (8:00 PM)

Thu, February 25, 2016

7:00 pm

$20

This event is all ages

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The Infamous Stringdusters - (Set time: 9:00 PM)
The Infamous Stringdusters
Unlike rock 'n' roll, bluegrass music's boundaries are often defined in very narrow terms and that has caused some bands to carefully consider their place within the genre. But, in order to survive, everything must evolve... even bluegrass. Enter the Infamous Stringdusters, the very model of a major modern bluegrass band.

“At a certain point in our career, there was hesitation in calling us a bluegrass band,” guitarist Andy Falco admits. “These days, we’re much more comfortable with that label.” Banjo man Chris Pandolfi echoes the point: “We love bluegrass, but we have been influenced by other genres as much, if not more. When it comes to making music, we always try to be a blank slate and give new songs whatever they need to come to life. We just try to make something good, something that is true to who we are.”

On Laws of Gravity, that's exactly what the Infamous Stringdusters — Andy Hall (dobro), Jeremy Garrett (fiddle), and Travis Book (double bass), in addition to Falco and Pandolfi — have done. Their seventh studio set further proves that the band's collective whole is far greater than the sum of its individual parts, as the song selection and pitch-perfect performances weighs the Stringdusters' appeal to traditional fans against their musical quest to attract new listeners. It's a balance that comes naturally to the band.

Here, trad-leaning tunes like “Freedom,” “A Hard Life Makes a Good Song,” “Maxwell,” and “1901: A Canyon Odyssey” pick hard and soar high, letting trade-off solos and layered vocal harmonies work their magic. As it continues on, Gravity reaches its roots deep and wide, but never sacrifices the wings of the band, as exemplified in tracks like “Back Home” and “This Ol' Building” which pull from the blues and R&B strands of the Stringdusters' musical DNA.

“The specific feelings in those songs lend themselves to a soulful sound,” Hall explains. “The longing of 'Back Home,' the passion of 'This Ol' Building.' Slowing things down a bit, but still having a real edge and passion is the essence of that. And probably a bit of maturity on our part brings out a more authentic soulful sound.”

Indeed, the Stringdusters have worked hard to become the band they are or, perhaps, the band they wanted and knew themselves to be — a self-discovery process to which Laws of Gravity bears witness. “Once you start to move out of that, a lot of good things happen,” Pandolfi says. “You know who you are, and how to do your thing with confidence and experience. This colors the songwriting process as much as anything. We work so hard on the music, but it's not hard work. It's really the payoff, and it comes more naturally with time.”

Letting the past inform and the present propel, the Stringdusters' style and substance are uniquely Infamous. Since 2007, the band's ever-evolving artistry and boldly creative collaborations — including Ryan Adams, Joss Stone, Bruce Hornsby, Joan Osborne, and Lee Ann Womack — have pushed them past the edges of traditional acoustic music and carved out a musical niche all their own in the hearts of fans and critics, alike. Over the past couple of years, they released 2015's Undercover, a covers EP, followed by 2016's Ladies & Gentlemen, an album featuring multiple female guest vocalists. Those projects may have seemed like artistic tangents, but they actually proved to be a pretty direct route from there to Gravity.

“Being singers and songwriters, we were really ready to put some of our own songs out with us singing them,” Falco says. “In the same way solo projects can take you away to be able to come back and feel refreshed, the last two records have done that and we were ready to hit the studio with our songs sung by us.”

“We had much more of a vision for how we wanted this album to come together than we did with past projects,” Pandolfi adds. “We got the music, including all our individual parts, to a place where we knew we could go into the studio and just let it happen live. We are a band. We play live together and, more than any one song or achievement, this is what we do. Now we have an album that captures that.”

Part of Gravity's vision involved not road-testing and adapting the songs before taking them into the studio. That's a new step in the Stringdusters' process which starts with filtering through and whittling down a wealth of material to the best of the batch. “We take those 20 or so songs and take them to the next level as a band,” Pandolfi explains. “So much gets accomplished in this writing/arranging stage. It's where songs become Stringduster songs. In the end, we share the songwriting credit because of all the collective work that goes into this (and every other) aspect of being in a band.”

“We may try the song in a number of different feels before landing on something that works for the sound of the band. If a song is good, it usually comes together fairly quickly,” Halls says, adding, “But we’re writing more diverse stuff these days, so some experimentation is always welcome.”

While the new record boasts a single instrumental track, “Sirens,” where the five fellas really cut loose on their respective strings, the vocals across the other dozen tracks tie this music to the bluegrass tradition in an even more profound way. “Singing is a big part of bluegrass music,” Falco says. “It’s an important part of the sound and I think that part of music gets overlooked a lot. The singing should convey the emotion of the song. That's what we aim to do. One could argue that it's more important than the playing.”

Out beyond Laws of Gravity, the Infamous Stringdusters have an even broader vision. “We just want to keep making original music, keep evolving as people and musicians, and continue to help our amazing community of fans grow and enjoy this experience together,” Pandolfi says. “When we hear from people that our music or the community around our music has helped them find joy in life, it makes everything seem very worthwhile.”

Falco adds, “We love playing together and that’s the reason we’ve been doing it for as long as we have. We want to able to do this until we’re old and grey. That’s really it — making music together and continuing to evolve our brand of bluegrass music.”
Della Mae - (Set time: 8:00 PM)
Della Mae
"We were ready to try something new," Celia Woodsmith says of Della Mae's eponymous third album and second Rounder release. "In some ways, this album's very different from what we've done previously, but it's self-titled because we feel like it sounds as much like us as anything we've ever done."

Della Mae expands upon the musical achievements of the group's widely acclaimed, Grammy-nominated 2013 breakthrough album This World Oft Can Be, which established the multi-talented female combo as a potent musical force. With a sensitive yet assertive approach that's steeped in tradition yet firmly rooted in the present, the four versatile instrumentalist/vocalists draw from a bottomless well of rootsy influences to create vibrantly original music that conveys the band's expansive musical vision with timeless lyrical truths and an unmistakably contemporary sensibility that places them alongside such roots-conscious young acts as the Avett Brothers, Punch Brothers, the Lumineers, and Hurray for the Riff Raff.

Since its formation in 2009, the Boston-bred, Nashville-based outfit has established a reputation as a charismatic, hard-touring live act, building a large and enthusiastic fan base while racking up massive amounts of critical acclaim with its first two albums. Now, Della Mae finds the foursome embracing a fresh set of musical challenges with eleven compelling new tunes that embody the musical and emotional qualities of the group's prior output while venturing into uncharted creative territory.

Della Mae's renewed sense of mission is reflected in the emotional intensity and musical invention of such new originals as "Boston Town," "Rude Awakening" and "For the Sake of My Heart," as well as vivid, insightful readings of the Rolling Stones' classic "No Expectations" and the Low Anthem's haunting "To Ohio," which showcase the quartet's world-class musicianship and deeply expressive harmonies, as well as Celia Woodsmith's subtly commanding lead vocals. Mandolinist Jenni Lyn Gardner and guitarist Courtney Hartman also step up to the mic to take memorable lead-vocal turns on "Good Blood" and "Long Shadow," respectively.

"Maybe the songs aren't all that different from what we've done before, but there was a whole different mindset to how we went about recording them," Woodsmith notes. "For me, this is the emotional record, the one where you work with every ounce of your being to pour that feeling into the music. We tried to be mindful of how the songs would fit together, and we chose these songs because we wanted to explore some different emotions and different textures and present a slightly different version of ourselves than people have heard previously."

Della Mae's boundary-pushing direction is the product of the musicians' fortuitous collaboration with producer Jacquire King, an iconoclastic sonic visionary who's won Grammy awards for his work on such landmark albums as Tom Waits' Mule Variations, Norah Jones' The Fall, Buddy Guy's Blues Singer and Kings of Leon's Only by the Night.

The producer's talent for capturing creative chemistry and spontaneous moments of inspiration proved to be an ideal match for Della Mae's vocal and instrumental skills, which were augmented on the album sessions by noted standup bassist Mark Schatz and Elephant Revival frontwoman Bonnie Paine, who contributes percussion and musical saw on several tracks. The album was recorded at Nashville’s storied Sound Emporium, and mixed at the LBT/Blackbird Studios.

"The whole experience was so inspiring and so much fun, and Jacquire changed the way we think about recording," Woodsmith says, adding, "None of us had ever worked with anyone like him before, and he really forced us to rethink a lot of our assumptions about how we make records."

The resulting album honors the musicians' roots in bluegrass, folk, and rock while staking out a distinctive, organic sound and style that are wholly Della Mae's own. The band's revitalized approach is reflected in the musicians' compelling new compositions, and in the raw immediacy of their vocal and instrumental performances.

"One big difference on this album," Celia observes, "is the emphasis on the groove, which is something that people maybe don't notice consciously, but which is so important. That's something that we hadn't really focused on before, but this time we felt that it was absolutely essential. So we would spend hours and hours trying to get the groove right. We also put our instruments through amps in the studio, which is something that we'd never done before."

Della Mae's edgier vibe is also reflected in the immediacy and authority of the group's voices. "We wanted people to hear our raw, real voices, and I wanted to try to get live takes down, and Jacquire was totally on board with that," Woodsmith explains. "If things sounded a little funky or weren't quite pitch-perfect, we were ok with that. When we were recording our vocals, Jacquire would have little chats with us: 'What are you thinking about when you're singing this song?' 'What does this mean for you?' 'Who are you thinking about?'

"Jacquire doesn't mince words, and he's really good at challenging you in a way that makes you want to rise to his expectations. He cultivated within me a different style of performance that I didn't know that I had, and I think that he did that with all of us. He said, 'We can't make a half-assed album, we're gonna give every ounce of ourselves to these songs,' and I think we did."

Although they maintain a busy touring schedule, Della Mae has also found time to serve as cultural ambassadors in the U.S. State Department's American Music Abroad program. In that capacity, they've undertaken a series of extended trips to Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Brazil, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, playing concerts for local audiences as well as collaborating with local musicians and participating in children's music-education programs.

"It's become a big part of our lives, and we're proud to be part of it," Woodsmith says of the group's work as musical diplomats. "We went to 15 countries in 2014. It's been incredible connecting with people who don't know a lot about American culture, and learning about their music and having them learn about ours. It's really opened our eyes as people and as musicians, and hopefully it's had the same effect on the people we've met on these trips.

"What those trips have done for band morale has been invaluable," she adds. "It's strengthened our camaraderie, and it's helped us become a better band and taught us about performing under hard circumstances. We could have come home from that first six-week State Department tour and just said 'OK, the band's done.' But we came home feeling totally inspired, and wanting to create those kinds of connections with people in our own country as well."

Della Mae was also chosen to perform in Washington, D.C. in June 2014, as part of a special naturalization ceremony hosted by the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, at which new citizens from 15 countries were sworn in by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Della Mae's efforts to use music as a unifying force are consistent with the adventurous, open-minded attitude that they've maintained from the time that fiddler Kimber Ludiker originally assembled the group. Although they came together in Boston, the young players all brought diverse backgrounds and considerable musical experience to the project. After initially gaining a reputation for high-energy live performances in clubs and festivals around the country, Della Mae expanded its reputation with the self-released 2011 debut album I Built This Heart. 2013's This World Oft Can Be proved to be a sensation with fans and critics alike, earning the group a Grammy nomination for Best Bluegrass Album.

Now armed with a passel of dynamic new tunes and a renewed sense of purpose, Della Mae is eager to get back on the road and introduce their new music to their loyal admirers.


Della Mae is:

Celia Woodsmith—vocals, guitar
Kimber Ludiker—fiddle, vocals
Jenni Lyn Gardner—mandolin, vocals
Courtney Hartman—guitar, banjo, vocals
Zoe Guigueno-- bass, vocals
Venue Information:
Troubadour
9081 Santa Monica Blvd
Los Angeles, CA, 90069
http://www.troubadour.com/

All lineups and times subject to change