I am rather new to the world of bluegrass music. I have been a long time country music fan and over the past year I have developed a love for bluegrass. This is one of the few genres of music that does not feel corporate and you can see that artists are truly making the music that they want to make. Even the more modern sounding bluegrass bands stick somewhat to the roots of what makes bluegrass great, which is unique to practically every other genre. If you are a fan of country instrumentation like steel guitar, banjo and fiddle, you will hear it in bluegrass music significantly more than you will in even traditional country.
The Infamous Stringdusters who formed in 2006 would be best described as modern bluegrass music with some country and folk elements to their sound. They have always been a unique group in a genre that puts an emphasis on tradition. Listening to this album you will hear references that are just as relevant today as they were a hundred years ago. Their new album Laws Of Gravity blends tradition with more modern music and the lyrics are absolute poetry.
Right from the beginning we get a great song “Freedom” about leaving everything behind and starting anew in a place where he belongs. The man in the story has never belonged anywhere that he has been before. He feels like he is trapped in a cage of sorts and makes the decision to leave in search of a true home. “Gravity” uses the idea of comparing love to a race. The two lovers always thought that love was difficult like a marathon and they had no idea that they would win the race (marriage, eternal love). They always believed that the best time in their life was in the future but, they are already living the best days of their life. The idea of gravity is that the lovers hope that their love won’t fly away and disappear. The hope is that gravity will keep their love firmly on the ground.
“A Hard Life Makes a Good Song” is the most traditional song on the album. This song is about all the horrible things that can happen in your life. From bad relationships to being arrested, these horrible experiences make for good songs. When music is relatable and you really mean what you are singing the audience knows it and they can feel it. A little later on the album we get the best song and an early candidate for song of the year which is titled “Maxwell.” What makes this song stand out for me so much is the incredible storytelling. We are told that there was a boy named Maxwell whose father had left and his mother had died. The chorus of the song begs the question “Maxwell my boy what will be your fate?” As it turns out the boy that the story is about is actually the narrator who became a rich man with a large house on a hill. Unfortunately, financial wealth is all that Maxwell has, as he is alone even into adulthood. There is some hope at the end of the story as we are told that it’s not to late for Maxwell to change. If the lyrical content isn’t enough for you perhaps the fiddle play in the introduction will sell you.
“This Ol’ Building” is a song that has such an important message at a time in the world where people are desperate for change regardless of how it is achieved or by whom. The old building is used as a metaphor and the message is that once that building is down you will wish you could have it back. But, once the building is down, you can never get it back. Next we have “Soul Searching” which is something that all human beings do and it is a never ending process. We are constantly learning more about ourselves through experiences in our lives. My favorite part of the song is when the narrator questions “who am I to judge, who am I to preach?” He understands that he is not perfect and he makes mistakes in his life. Therefore, it is not his place to judge others and tell them how to live their lives.
“Back Home” contains a very different message to what we hear in the opening track. In this story the man is longing for his home where his loved ones are. He has been a rolling stone his whole life and wishes to finally settle down and plant his roots in his hometown.
The album rounds out with the fantastic track “I Run to You.” This song describes something that practically every person experiences in their lives. The idea that wherever they go, they just don’t belong. They feel alone and unloved and then someone comes along and makes them feel whole for the first time. The man in this story meets a woman who he falls in love with. He wants to run away with her and start over somewhere far away. Nothing in his life made sense before her, he was a lost soul but now he is found. He isn’t afraid of anything as long as he has her by his side.
Wow. That is what I say to this breathtaking album from The Infamous Stringdusters. If you get the chance I really recommend reading the lyrics to some of these songs to see just how poetic this album is. If you can’t tell the difference in quality between this and some of the mainstream artists out there in country music, you never will. I would recommend this album to everyone. I believe this is an essential album to listen to and dissect. You do not have to be a bluegrass fan to appreciate the remarkable art that is displayed on Laws Of Gravity.
Album Grade: 9/10
Best Songs: Maxwell, This Ol’ Building, I Run To You
Who Would Like This? Fans of poetry, bluegrass, country and great lyrical content in general