“It’s been an adjustment,” says Chris Pandolfi, banjo player for the Nashville-born, Grammy-winning bluegrass band the Infamous Stringdusters, of the last two time-warped years. “Just like everyone else, in March 2020 we shut down. About a year later we did a few outdoor shows. It wasn’t until last fall we got back in our tour bus. The path to feeling comfortable again unfolds in a different way for everyone, so that’s been interesting to figure out, but it feels so good to be back seeing our people and making our music.”
While the logistics of tours and concerts teeter back into the realm of normal, the Stringdusters’ new album, Toward the Fray, which Garden & Gun is proud to premiere today, stands as evidence that recent events have changed all of us in a variety of ways.
“Sonically, there is always a progression as a band grows,” Pandolfi says. “But this album is unique because of the subject matter the songs and the lyrics touch on.” While the band’s music has always been thoughtful, Toward the Fray, the group’s twelfth studio album, leans further into topical themes and self-reflection. “The past couple years have been challenging for everyone on so many levels,” he says. “As we’re getting older, we’re figuring out our place in the world from a new perspective, so we’re taking on different subject matter that’s not always so easy to talk about.”
Take the title track, which opens with the line “Death unfolds before my eyes” and goes on to uncoil ideas surrounding peace, justice, and the tangled web of history. Or the powerful “I’m Not Alone,” which Pandolfi cites as his favorite track on the record. “Among the most important responsibilities in our lives is to connect to people closest to us, especially in these trying times,” he says of the song, its harmonious refrain willing both the singer and the listener to believe the words in the title. “The song resonates with me on both sides—knowing that I’m not alone, and also reminding me to let others know they aren’t either. Music has always been a great way to communicate these things in a language that’s bigger than the spoken word.”
Stream Toward the Fray below. The album is out this Friday, February 18, and available for pre-order here.