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Chris Thile - Laysongs

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Laysongs

Chris Thile

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In June of 2020, Chris Thile was hosting his public-radio variety show, Live from Here (fka A Prairie Home Companion), remotely from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, when the program was abruptly canceled. Sequestered with his family in Hudson, New York at the time, and with gentle prodding from Bob Hurwitz at Nonesuch to capture something inspired by pandemic life, he soon set about recording a solo album. Co-produced by Thile and his wife, Claire Coffee, the resulting Laysongs gathers five original songs, a Thile instrumental, two covers, and a meticulous version of the fourth movement of Bartók's Sonata for Solo Violin. The pieces are all tied together by a three-dimensional take on the theme of spirituality and recorded in a converted church, with only Thile and his mandolin. The covers include wistful closer "Won't You Come and Sing for Me," originally by bluegrass pioneer Hazel Dickens, and "God Is Alive Magic Is Afoot" by Buffy Sainte-Marie, itself an adaptation of a Leonard Cohen poem. Thile's lyric-focused version of the latter combines gentle folk and both percussive and virtuosic mandolin passages behind lines like "Service is but magic/Coursing through the flesh/And flesh itself is magic/Dancing on a clock." In addition to the under-five-minute Bartók selection, a second classical-minded entry is the expressive "Ecclesiastes," an original mandolin solo that Thile based loosely on the Prelude to Bach's Partita for Solo Violin in E Major. The remaining songs dwell in Thile's sophisticated folk-pop, which gracefully and sometimes surprisingly playfully questions ideas of faith and sources of comfort in "a species at war with itself since the day it was born." The album's centerpiece is the three-part "Salt (In the Wounds)," which opens with a confrontational, shredding Part One before moving onto a tenderer Part Two and more-playful third part ("There you go again/Judging/You gotta count to ten/Or something"). Taken together with the classical-sourced pieces and poignant covers, Laysongs has an undeniable weightiness to it, but rather than seeming didactic, it's carried off with a warmth, nuance, and intelligence that matches the effortless intricacy of its performances.
© Marcy Donelson /TiVo

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Laysongs

Chris Thile

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1
Laysong
00:04:50

Chris Thile, Producer, Mandolin, Vocals, Writer, MainArtist - Greg Calbi, Masterer - Steve Fallone, Masterer - Jody Elff, Recording & Mixing - Claire Coffee, Producer

© 2021 Nonesuch Records Inc. ℗ 2021 Nonesuch Records Inc.

2
Ecclesiastes 2:24
00:04:14

Chris Thile, Producer, Mandolin, Vocals, Writer, MainArtist - Greg Calbi, Masterer - Steve Fallone, Masterer - Jody Elff, Recording & Mixing - Claire Coffee, Producer

© 2021 Nonesuch Records Inc. ℗ 2021 Nonesuch Records Inc.

3
God Is Alive Magic Is Afoot
00:04:59

Chris Thile, Producer, Mandolin, Vocals, MainArtist - Greg Calbi, Masterer - Leonard Cohen, Writer - Steve Fallone, Masterer - Buffy Sainte-Marie, Writer - Jody Elff, Recording & Mixing - Claire Coffee, Producer

© 2021 Nonesuch Records Inc. ℗ 2021 Nonesuch Records Inc.

4
Salt (in the Wounds) of the Earth, Pt. 1
00:03:26

Chris Thile, Producer, Mandolin, Vocals, Writer, MainArtist - Greg Calbi, Masterer - Steve Fallone, Masterer - Jody Elff, Recording & Mixing - Claire Coffee, Producer

© 2021 Nonesuch Records Inc. ℗ 2021 Nonesuch Records Inc.

5
Salt (in the Wounds) of the Earth, Pt. 2
00:04:42

Chris Thile, Producer, Mandolin, Vocals, Writer, MainArtist - Greg Calbi, Masterer - Steve Fallone, Masterer - Jody Elff, Recording & Mixing - Claire Coffee, Producer

© 2021 Nonesuch Records Inc. ℗ 2021 Nonesuch Records Inc.

6
Salt (in the Wounds) of the Earth, Pt. 3
00:04:50

Chris Thile, Producer, Mandolin, Vocals, Writer, MainArtist - Greg Calbi, Masterer - Steve Fallone, Masterer - Jody Elff, Recording & Mixing - Claire Coffee, Producer

© 2021 Nonesuch Records Inc. ℗ 2021 Nonesuch Records Inc.

7
Sonata for Solo Violin, Sz. 117: IV. Presto
00:04:45

Chris Thile, Producer, Mandolin, Vocals, MainArtist - Bela Bartok, Writer - Greg Calbi, Masterer - Steve Fallone, Masterer - Jody Elff, Recording & Mixing - Claire Coffee, Producer

© 2021 Nonesuch Records Inc. ℗ 2021 Nonesuch Records Inc.

8
Dionysus
00:04:48

Chris Thile, Producer, Mandolin, Vocals, Writer, MainArtist - Greg Calbi, Masterer - Steve Fallone, Masterer - Jody Elff, Recording & Mixing - Claire Coffee, Producer

© 2021 Nonesuch Records Inc. ℗ 2021 Nonesuch Records Inc.

9
Won't You Come and Sing for Me
00:04:07

Chris Thile, Producer, Mandolin, Vocals, MainArtist - Greg Calbi, Masterer - Steve Fallone, Masterer - Hazel Dickens, Writer - Jody Elff, Recording & Mixing - Claire Coffee, Producer

© 2021 Nonesuch Records Inc. ℗ 2021 Nonesuch Records Inc.

Album Description

In June of 2020, Chris Thile was hosting his public-radio variety show, Live from Here (fka A Prairie Home Companion), remotely from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, when the program was abruptly canceled. Sequestered with his family in Hudson, New York at the time, and with gentle prodding from Bob Hurwitz at Nonesuch to capture something inspired by pandemic life, he soon set about recording a solo album. Co-produced by Thile and his wife, Claire Coffee, the resulting Laysongs gathers five original songs, a Thile instrumental, two covers, and a meticulous version of the fourth movement of Bartók's Sonata for Solo Violin. The pieces are all tied together by a three-dimensional take on the theme of spirituality and recorded in a converted church, with only Thile and his mandolin. The covers include wistful closer "Won't You Come and Sing for Me," originally by bluegrass pioneer Hazel Dickens, and "God Is Alive Magic Is Afoot" by Buffy Sainte-Marie, itself an adaptation of a Leonard Cohen poem. Thile's lyric-focused version of the latter combines gentle folk and both percussive and virtuosic mandolin passages behind lines like "Service is but magic/Coursing through the flesh/And flesh itself is magic/Dancing on a clock." In addition to the under-five-minute Bartók selection, a second classical-minded entry is the expressive "Ecclesiastes," an original mandolin solo that Thile based loosely on the Prelude to Bach's Partita for Solo Violin in E Major. The remaining songs dwell in Thile's sophisticated folk-pop, which gracefully and sometimes surprisingly playfully questions ideas of faith and sources of comfort in "a species at war with itself since the day it was born." The album's centerpiece is the three-part "Salt (In the Wounds)," which opens with a confrontational, shredding Part One before moving onto a tenderer Part Two and more-playful third part ("There you go again/Judging/You gotta count to ten/Or something"). Taken together with the classical-sourced pieces and poignant covers, Laysongs has an undeniable weightiness to it, but rather than seeming didactic, it's carried off with a warmth, nuance, and intelligence that matches the effortless intricacy of its performances.
© Marcy Donelson /TiVo

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