Bluegrass outfit the Infamous Stringdusters will take to the stage in the Pour House parking lot July 29 | photo by Trent Grogan

Travis Book is a podcast host, father and master musician who wholeheartedly believes in the transformative power of song. He currently calls Brevard, North Carolina, home but his trajectory, musical and otherwise, actually began out West.

“I grew up in Colorado and went to school in Durango,” Book said. “For lack of a better idea, I was a communications major. Back then, it seemed like a little bit of a fluffy choice, and I didn’t really have a master plan, but the skills I learned have really served me well in terms of what I do as a performer and what I do in my spare time.”

Book told the City Paper that there just happened to also be a great acoustic scene taking shape in southern Colorado during his younger years and that this is where he first “caught the Bluegrass bug” along with a few like-minded friends.

“I became more and more absorbed in that world until, eventually, I started a band with Anders Beck, who is in Greensky Bluegrass now; Andy Thorn, who joined Leftover Salmon; and Jon Stickley, who is best known for his work with the Biscuit Burners and the Jon Stickley Trio.”

In 2005, Book pivoted away from that group, dubbed the Broke Mountain Bluegrass Band, to join forces with the collective that would become a perennial favorite along the festival circuit, the Infamous Stringdusters.

This jam-friendly string ensemble features Book on bass, Andy Falco on guitar, Andy Hall on dobro, Chris Pandolfi on banjo and Jeremy Garrett on fiddle. Although Stringdusters has been a major focal point for all of them these last 17 years, each of the members remains active outside of the band, and according to Book, that’s what keeps things exciting.

“It’s as compelling as ever to play together because we allow ourselves the freedom to scratch other musical itches when we are apart,” Book said. “When you have five guys who are all capable leaders in their own right, it could potentially be a situation where a band gets pulled in a lot of different directions trying to meet everyone’s needs. But since we get to do lots of exploring on our own, it’s much easier to surrender to the whole and to what it means to be a Stringduster whenever we regroup.”

Since its inception, the Infamous Stringdusters has been relentlessly touring, evolving and gaining momentum with every subtle step along the way. However, like most other traveling musicians, Book and company were suddenly forced off the road during the initial outbreak of Covid-19 in 2020.

Not knowing exactly how much time-off was coming, Book said that he and his colleagues were determined to use it wisely.

“For a long while we had bounced around the idea of doing some tribute records but it wasn’t until the pandemic hit that we had enough time on our hands to work on one such project honoring Bill Monroe. We were kind of surprised to later be nominated for a Grammy with that one. We weren’t really expecting that.”

At some point during that same peak pandemic period, it also occurred to Book that, given the band’s backlog of unrecorded tunes, it made a lot of sense to go ahead and piece together another album’s worth of original material while they were at it. The resulting LP, Toward the Fray, arrived to rave reviews in February. And the whole process seems to have reinvigorated everyone in the Stringdusters’ camp, who are all happy to be back on tour supporting both new releases.

“It’s feeling really good to be a Stringduster these days,” Book said. “It’s clear to me that we have so much potential and so much growth left in us.” That said, the road ahead looks different than it did in the early days of the group.

“The older I get the more I find that success lies in knowing that we are pursuing our musical truth, as it were, and simply going about making the best, most interesting music that we can. The less I am attached to metrics, as in how many people are listening and how many tickets we are selling, the happier I am.”

The Infamous Stringdusters play the Charleston Pour House lot stage at 6:30 p.m. on July 29. Tickets are available at charlestonpourhouse.com.


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