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It’s an exciting time for fans of The Infamous Stringdusters.
On the heels of receiving a third Grammy Award nomination this fall for last year’s “”A Tribute to Bill Monroe,” the string quintet — which includes Sayville native Andy Falco on guitar — has kicked off a cross country tour in support of their upcoming album “Towards the Fray,” which drops Feb. 18 via Americana Vibes.
The group last month played two sets at the Blue Point Brewery. They led off with 2019’s “Rise Sun” and “I Didn’t Know” from their forthcoming album. Later, Falco dedicated “The Place that I Call Home,” to his wife Jasmine.
In addition to performing their own original songs, the group played “Stones Unturned” off of Falco’s 2021 solo record “The Will of the Way.” They also put their spin on a wealth of covers, including The Almond Brothers Band’s instrumental “Jessica” and Bill Monroe’s “Toy Heart,” a cut off their tribute album.
‘A Tribute to Bill Monroe,’ a ‘homegrown project’ amid a pandemic
During the pandemic, the Stringdusters were scattered across the country, but did not want their collective creative muscles to atrophy. The released an acoustic Christmas album, “Dust the Halls,” in December 2020. After that, they went to work on what ultimately became “A Tribute to Bill Monroe.” Many call Monroe the father of bluegrass.
Falco’s home studio acted as a central hub for work on the album while the crew was apart.
“I would start the tracks here with guitar and send them out to the guys,” Falco said of his time in his home studio. “And then, one by one, they would add a part, send it back to me, and I would put it into the track, and then send it to the next guy. And then when it’s all said and done, I would mix it here.”
“It was also mastered here on Long Island by Fred Guarino over at Tiki Studios,” Falco added. “It’s a little bit of a homegrown project.”
These relay-race recordings in honor of the father of bluegrass resulted in a Grammy nomination, which Falco did not anticipate.
“It was a little bit of a surprise, a pleasant surprise, that it was received well,” he said. “We put the record out really just as something for us to do that we wanted to do and something for the fans. With all the other nominees that are on that list it really is truly an honor to be nominated for this record.”
The Stringdusters previously earned the Grammy Award for Best Bluegrass Album for 2017’s “Laws of Gravity.” This year’s Grammy Award program has been postponed due to COVID-19.
As gripping as a Grammy nomination may be, it is not the most invigorating news Falco received last year. He and his wife are expecting a son this spring.
For Falco, this could mean a fresh pair of ears to help him around the home studio. His daughter, Violet, played a part throughout the making of “A Tribute to Bill Monroe.”
“She got to hear it from the very beginning, and she got to hear it over and over and over again,” Falco said. “I occasionally call her in and I go ‘Hey, what do you think of this one?’ and she’ll sit there and go ‘I like it.’ I do get a lot of feedback from her, and my wife as well. I use them a lot to get some other ears on it.”
Writing ‘Toward the Fray’ through tumultuous times
Whereas “A Tribute to Bill Monroe” was recorded and released during the pandemic, “Toward the Fray” was born out of it.
The Infamous Stringdusters 12th full-length album is perhaps their most reactive and contemporary. Of course, all hallmarks of the groups sound — and even some new ones, such as the use of drums on select tracks — are present.
What truly stands out however, are the lyrics across the album. The Black Lives Matter movement, swelling division and a global pandemic audibly filled the Stringdusters’ inkwells when they wrote the batch of songs destined for “Toward the Fray.”
“I think can I speak for all the Stringdusters who were writing from a similar place, these songs mean a lot to us,” Falco said. “What we’re touching on in the lyrics are important subjects. There was a lot of draw on current events and what was happening around us in the world on the themes of these songs. And I know certainly, we were all kind of feeling that.”
“There’s maybe a little more of a darker edge to the themes on this record then we might normally do on a Stringdusters record,” he added. “But it’s also with the idea that there’s hope for things to get better. That definitely is in there as well.”