Jeremy Garrett has one of the most enviable day jobs in Nashville – as fiddler and singer for The Infamous Stringdusters, he is one-sixth of the hottest progressive bluegrass band in the land. His success with the ‘Dusters, who have already garnered three IBMA awards and are enjoying strong fan support across the country, makes his recent solo release, I Am A Stranger, all the more impressive. When it seemed that Garrett had no place to go but down, he has released what is easily the finest bluegrass album of early 2009.
The first three songs on I Am A Stranger – “I Am A Stranger,” “Echoes of Goodbye,” and “What’s Good For You” – stand together as the strongest opening statement made by an artist on a record in recent memory. Lacking an ounce of subtlety, Garrett and the bevy of guest musicians he calls in to help out – Blue Highway’s Shawn Lane on mandolin, bass player Dennis Crouch, and vocalists Josh Williams, Jamie Dailey, and Kim Fox, among others – leave listeners with no doubt that I Am A Stranger is going to be a wild bluegrass ride.
Garrett is joined by his ‘Dusters mates on three tracks – “Y2K,” a longtime instrumental staple in the band’s setlist rotation, “End of the Line,” which features the band’s tight harmonies, and “Peace King,” an elegant piece of chambergrass that subtly weaves together each band member’s instrument without allowing any one to dominate.
Two standout tracks that represent a departure for Garrett are “Fields of My Mind,” a stark, droning Irish fiddle tune reminiscent of Tim O’Brien’s finest work, and “North and South of the River,” a well-chosen U2 cover complete with piano and hand percussion.
Like the best of his bluegrass contemporaries, Jeremy Garrett approaches his music with an ear bent towards yesterday and his sights set on tomorrow. I Am A Stranger reflects that, and we listeners should keep hoping that Garrett takes time to moonlight from time to time to make more records like this.
I Am A Stranger is out now on Sugar Hill Records.