Editor’s note: KDUR Station Manager Bryant Liggett’s “Downtown Lowdown” music column returns to The Durango Herald. It will run on Fridays in the Arts & Entertainment section.Live around Durango long enough and you’ll likely live next to a musician. Maybe even a bluegrass musician who makes it a point to practice, a lot.
If you lived anywhere in town around the early 2000s, you could have lived next to any of the members of bluegrass band Broke Mountain and questioned their insane practice schedule and dedication and study of the craft. Fifteen years later, all members of that award-winning bluegrass band have carved out their own careers as band leaders recording under their own names, or as members of Leftover Salmon, Greensky Bluegrass or The Infamous Stringdusters, the latter of which features one-time local and Fort Lewis College graduate Travis Book on bass.
The Grammy-winning Infamous Stringdusters will return to Durango on Sunday with a show at the Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College.
They have carved out their own identity among the bluegrass and jam world; liken them to New Grass Revival for their progressive and aggressive take on Bill Monroe’s bluegrass music, but toss in improvisational jazz, some driving groove and a large dose of acoustic-based indie rock. That’s the bands musical world, a space where jazz, rock and jam are jumping on a bluegrass trampoline only to collide mid-air and break into a million musical pieces. They’re like the bastard children of The David Grisman Quintet, The Grateful Dead and The Mahavishu Orchestra.
Book admits they’re not the easiest band to get into, as they have four different singers and an array of influences. Dig beyond the bluegrass base and jam-ideas and you’ve got a band that’s difficult to label and toss on a shelf.
“Genre only serves organizational purposes, it doesn’t serve the music,” Book said. “The purest way to listen to anything is to hear it without visual aid or context. All that genre stuff gets in the way of the true musical experience.”
In April, the band will release “Rise Sun,” their ninth proper studio album. The band is taking a 1970s rock-band approach to this release, bucking the current trend of bands solely recording and releasing singles, and making a true LP. The songs can stand on their own, but records made with this mindset were meant to be listened to from start to finish; start with side A, when it’s done, flip over to side B.
“We recorded this record in sequence, first track all the way through and built it to play as one long musical statement, as a little bit of a throwback style,” Book said. “Like the great records of the ’60s and ’70s as one long thing to be digested. It’s awesome. We’re excited to play that music.”
The Grammy win for “Laws of Gravity,” awarded best bluegrass album, is just icing on the cake for a band whose diehard fans would stick with them trophy or no trophy. This band showcased a tone of talent, drive and good taste long before they were handed an award, but the one thing the Grammy win has done is give some legitimacy to their mission.
“It was a surprise to win, and any kind of music contest is sort of a strange thing. But what it did that I thought was interesting, it lopped off the 10 percent of doubt” Book said. “It gave us the freedom to annihilate that aspect. It annihilated any question that we were on the right track. A Grammy? I don’t even know what that means, but that means something. So, it can’t hurt. It means we’re on the right track. But it’s a big deal to a lot of people. So, in the wake of that, let’s keep doing what we’re doing. It’s a signpost along the way that we’re going in the right direction.”
firstname.lastname@example.org. Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager.