Written in the middle of the most divisive, damaging presidential election in recent memory, “This Ol’ Building,” the lead-off single from the Infamous Stringdusters’ upcoming album Laws of Gravity, finds the Virginia-based bluegrass band ringing a warning bell, hoping to startle all unengaged listeners out of their stupor.
“Once it’s down, you’ll wish you could / Build it back, but it’s gone for good / And don’t look back, you won’t see / The home of the brave, land of the free,” goes one of the verses, driven forward by a groove that owes as much to R&B as acoustic roots music. The rest of the song walks a similar line between genres, mixing the Infamous Stringdusters’ arsenal of unplugged instruments – guitar, Dobro, upright bass, banjo and fiddle – with an implied beat that stomps and swaggers. Appropriately, the band co-produced the record with Billy Hume, whose past projects include Nas, Ludacris and Lil Jon & the East Side Boyz.
The highlight, though, is the song’s a cappella outro, which finds bandmates Andy Hall, Andy Falco, Chris Pandolfi, Jeremy Garrett and Travis Book piling their voices into harmonized stacks. As the pattern repeats itself, the harmonies begin overlapping, sounding like the contemporary, minor-key cousin of the Doobie Brothers’ “Black Water.” (Listen to the premiere of “This Ol’ Building” below.)
Falco wrote “This Ol’ Building” alone, and while he says the election cycle wasn’t the song’s original inspiration, the two have since become inextricably linked.
“While I wrote it from quite a different angle,” he begins, “the words have taken on a different meaning to me now. It seems now to be a warning to come together. We must be united and try to understand each other. We must respect each other, listen to each other and help each other. All sides of the political spectrum can and should debate what’s right and wrong, but we must watch closely the decisions being made on all our behalf, and we should argue and fight peacefully for human rights for all – and the environment.”
Is it safe to call “This Ol’ Building” a retroactive protest song, then? Perhaps not. The song doesn’t condemn as much as encourage concern, and the Infamous Stringdusters would rather work together to solve the country’s problems than point fingers. With its world-class playing, though, “This Ol’ Building” – which hits stores on January 13th, 2017, when Compass Records releases Laws of Gravity – is a powerful wake-up call.
“We must listen to each other,” Falco finishes, “and not let the lust for power, greed or pride get in the way of doing what is right for our all of our fellow citizens in this country — and for the rest of the world, which relies on us to set a good example. Whether you see it as the country or the planet, ‘This Ol’ Building’ that we all love has a lot of life left in her, but we must live and let live and look out for each other. Then, and only then, it won’t come crumbling down.”