Connecting Raleigh, The Infamous Stringdusters and Bill Monroe

When IBMA’s World of Bluegrass debuted in Raleigh in the Fall of 2013 local organizers brought in an All-Star line-up for that first year.  Steve Martin teamed up with the Steep Canyon Rangers. There was an incredible collaboration featuring Tony Rice, Bela Fleck, Jerry Douglas, Sam Bush and Del McCoury. The Punch Brothers were also there and shared the stage with The Infamous Stringdusters.

The Infamous Stringdusters return to Raleigh’s mainstage for the 10th anniversary of IBMA in Raleigh. The ‘Dusters are the closing act on the Red Hat Stage on Saturday October 1st. Tickets are on sale now for a limited number of reserved seats in the amphitheater.

In the decade since that first performance at World of Bluegrass in Raleigh the ‘Dusters have further honed their unique sound. It’s rooted in straight ahead bluegrass but stretches the boundaries. It’s a sound that along with Yonder Mountain String Band and Greensky Bluegrass has helped draw in a new generation of groove-oriented bluegrass fans. 

Despite being known for stretching out, the ‘Dusters remain fiercely loyal to Bill Monroe and the pioneers of the original bluegrass sound. Dobro player Andy Hall says he’ll never forget the first time he heard Bill Monroe, “The sound coming out of my speakers blew my mind. It sounded like ancient acoustic heavy metal,” said Hall in an interview with American Songwriter. “But then a song like ‘A Voice from on High’ would come on, and even though it was slow, it had this captivating power. The ancient tones.”

The Infamous Stringdusters returned to those “ancient tones” with the 2021 “Tribute to Bill Monroe” record. The album was nominated for a Grammy for best bluegrass album. Billy Strings won the Grammy for bluegrass that year, but the ‘Dusters tribute album racked up its fair share of accolades.  The radio station Folk Alley said the band would “…make the father of Bluegrass proud on their carefree frolic through some of the favorite Bill Monroe songs.”

These days it’s common to hear Bill Monroe’s music referred to as “traditional music” but ‘Dusters bass player Travis Book says that misses the point. “Bill Monroe’s contribution seems so fundamental now decades later,” Book told American Songwriter. But when it first came out, it was incredibly innovative, weird and ultimately impactful on American music. “The Grateful Dead, Elvis Presley, they don’t exist without Bill Monroe.” Book goes on to say this deep dive into the music of Bill Monroe was incredibly meaningful. “When we’re all done in 40 years, hang up our instruments, I think we’ll be really glad we did that.”

Of course, Bill Monroe has deep ties to Raleigh.  The man now known as “the father of bluegrass” lived in Raleigh with his big brother Charlie in the mid to late 1930s. They two played spirituals and traditional music they grew up with. They had a regular gig playing on WPTF Radio. In the 1930’s WPTF was one of the dozens of stations across North Carolina that featured live music.  Shows like “Crazy Barn Dance” showcased regional old time fiddle bands and emerging country singers.  Bill and Charlie played together on WPTF until 1938.

We’re looking forward to seeing the Infamous Stringdusters play their own stuff, and with some Bill Monroe mixed in, when the band returns to Raleigh to play IBMA Bluegrass Live! powered by PNC. Tickets are available now for a limited number of reserved seats in the three front sections of Red Hat Amphitheater. General Admission seating in the back half will be free and “wide open” to all.