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Pop/Rock - Released October 27, 2017 | Nonesuch

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 4F de Télérama
When he doesn’t head Nickel Creek (an Americana trio) or the Punch Brothers (experts in chamber bluegrass) Chris Thile works with colleagues as diverse as cellist Yo-Yo Ma (The Goat Rodeo Sessions in 2011) or jazz pianist Brad Mehldau (Chris Thile & Brad Mehldau in 2017). Even better, the Californian mandolinist regularly releases solo albums that couldn’t be more eclectic. This is evidenced by his Thanks For Listening, whose starting point was none other than A Prairie Home Companion, a weekly radio show which he has been hosting since October 2016 and for which he composes the song of the week each week. These songs of the week evoke the news as well as the spirit of the times, social issues as well as everything that crosses the mind of the virtuoso musician whose ears are always wide open. For this disc, Thile has selected among them ten songs that he has re-recorded in studio. Between chamber rock and stripped-down folk, sophisticated Americana and dreamy pop, he unfolds his timeless melodies and his stringent, or even caustic, prose. © CM/Qobuz
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Folk/Americana - Released June 4, 2021 | Nonesuch

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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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Jazz - Released January 20, 2017 | Nonesuch

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Country - Released January 1, 1997 | Sugar Hill Records

Chris Thile's second solo presentation -- he would have been 16 years old at the time -- is every bit as impressive as Leading Off, and even more accomplished. In fact, it shows the lad taking significant strides, especially compositionally, resulting in a work of considerable progression for the prodigiously gifted musician. Although technically it is, Stealing Second isn't really a bluegrass album, per se, but something much more exceptional. Rip-snortin' tunes like the title track and "Clear the Tracks" notwithstanding, the album has an overall serene, gossamer beauty. It often feels like a symphony written for traditional bluegrass instruments instead of an orchestra. You cannot listen to the hymn-like purity of "Kneel Before Him" or "Alderaanian Melody" without marveling at the compositional integrity in evidence. Thile manages to make intricately structured and sophisticated melodies sound whimsical and breezy but still complex, wistful, and full of depth. He writes weighty dirges and coquettish ballads, bluesy laments and innocent paeans, and touches on classical, jazz, and, especially, Celtic music in addition to the music's vaguely bluegrass foundation -- and he does it with effortless ease and confidence. If not for a few external clues (songs named after planets in Star Wars, Sherlock Holmes, and Thile's favorite baseball player, Ryne Sandberg), you would be hard-pressed to guess this music emerged from a teenager. And with expert support from the likes of Jerry Douglas, Stuart Duncan, Alison Brown, Sam Bush, and David Grier, the playing is as good as it gets, and the teenager's solos are consistently inventive and surprising. In a way, it doesn't do justice to its creator to label Stealing Second the work of a prodigy. By this point, Thile was simply an awesome musician in full possession and control of both his playing and writing gifts. And already he was taking bluegrass down roads it had never previously been. © Stanton Swihart /TiVo
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Classical - Released August 2, 2013 | Nonesuch

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Country - Released January 1, 2001 | Sugar Hill Records

One has to marvel at the recording sessions the folks at Sugar Hill put together. Start with a young, hotshot mandolin player, Chris Thile, then add the cream of new acoustic players, fiddler Stuart Duncan, banjoist Bela Fleck, and dobroist Jerry Douglas, and pack the whole crew into the studio. Add to this a superb title, Not All Who Wander Are Lost, and it's impossible to go wrong. The breezy "Song for a Young Queen" is a joyful opener, laying the groundwork for 60 minutes of innovative acoustic picking. Bach meets Earl Scruggs on the sprightly "Riddles in the Dark," a duo with Bela Fleck featuring a complex intermingling of banjo and mandolin. The peaceful "Sinai to Canaan, Part 1" quietly rises and falls, with Edgar Meyer's bow and bass adding an eerie bottom end. The shifting rhythms, different combinations of instruments, and slightly mysterious air mirror the many ups and downs of a long journey. Jeff Coffin throws the sounds of the tenor sax into the mix on "Club G.R.O.S.S.," a jazzy open-ended piece that might be described as experimental acoustic. Several songs like "Raining at Sunset" and "Big Sam Thompson" clock in at over five minutes, allowing everyone plenty of room for lengthy solos. Not All Who Wander Are Lost is the perfect album for a lazy Sunday afternoon and will please anyone who loves rich, layered, acoustic music. © Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr. /TiVo
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Folk/Americana - Released January 1, 2006 | Sugar Hill Records

Looking at Chris Thile's recent projects, both the 2004 solo album Deceiver and his recent effort with Nickel Creek, 2005's Why Should the Fire Die?, a listener might experience both trepidation and excitement at the release of his new solo album, How to Grow a Woman from the Ground. This guy's got talent to burn, and in a field -- bluegrass and acoustic music -- that's known for its conservatism, he gleans fresh perspectives from breaking the rules. But Deceiver revealed a talent unraveling in so many different directions that the album finally lacked an identifiable center. Musically, How to Grow a Woman from the Ground is much more organic and cohesive than the eclectic sprawl of Deceiver, relying on acoustic instruments and the talents of guitarist Chris Eldridge, bassist Greg Garrison, banjoist Noam Pikelny, and fiddler Gabe Witcher to hold the sound together. The songs and instrumental selections are also quite strong, though Thile remains eclectic, drawing equally from traditional bluegrass, progressive acoustic, and singer/songwriter traditions. There is a great deal of distance between his cover of Jimmie Rodgers' "Brakeman's Blues" and the surreal lyrics of the title cut, but, thanks to the track sequencing, the album flows well. While both the instrumental pieces and Thile's confessionals are enjoyable, How to Grow a Woman from the Ground's highlights arise from fantastic covers of Jack White's "Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground" and the traditional "If the Sea Was Whiskey." The surreal lyrics of the title track, written by Tom Brosseau, are accompanied by an equally evocative melody, though the subject matter will probably strike progressive-minded listeners as troubling. How to Grow a Woman from the Ground may not qualify as the most enlightened title of the year, but it does reveal the growth of an adventurous talent. © Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr. /TiVo
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Country - Released May 6, 2011 | Nonesuch

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Country - Released January 1, 2006 | Sugar Hill Records

On Into the Cauldron, mandolinists Mike Marshall and Chris Thile weave a vision of stunning precision. Both are extremely articulate players, and their instruments wrap around each other, each note sounding clearly and beautifully. In terms of material, the album is fairly typical post-David Grisman/Béla Fleck fare -- a mix of genre-spliced original material, jazz standards ("Scrapple from the Apple"), classical arrangements ("The Goldberg Variations [Var. #1]"), and world influences ("Desvairada"). The duo excels in their arrangements, using two mandolins (and, sometimes, a mandolin and mandocello) to create a full and rich sound. In terms of pretty much everything but the execution, the album might seem like textbook 21st century "newgrass." But the execution is everything, and the record is well worth hearing. The album is capped by a beautifully harmonic-only reading of the traditional "Shamrock Shore," which seems to consolidate all of their technical achievements into a piece of ethereal perfection. © Jesse Jarnow /TiVo
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Pop - Released October 30, 2020 | Nonesuch

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Pop - Released May 5, 2021 | Nonesuch

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Jazz - Released January 20, 2017 | Nonesuch

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Pop/Rock - Released October 27, 2017 | Nonesuch

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When he doesn’t head Nickel Creek (an Americana trio) or the Punch Brothers (experts in chamber bluegrass) Chris Thile works with colleagues as diverse as cellist Yo-Yo Ma (The Goat Rodeo Sessions in 2011) or jazz pianist Brad Mehldau (Chris Thile & Brad Mehldau in 2017). Even better, the Californian mandolinist regularly releases solo albums that couldn’t be more eclectic. This is evidenced by his Thanks For Listening, whose starting point was none other than A Prairie Home Companion, a weekly radio show which he has been hosting since October 2016 and for which he composes the song of the week each week. These songs of the week evoke the news as well as the spirit of the times, social issues as well as everything that crosses the mind of the virtuoso musician whose ears are always wide open. For this disc, Thile has selected among them ten songs that he has re-recorded in studio. Between chamber rock and stripped-down folk, sophisticated Americana and dreamy pop, he unfolds his timeless melodies and his stringent, or even caustic, prose. © CM/Qobuz
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Classical - Released August 2, 2013 | Nonesuch

Booklet
This Bach release by progressive bluegrass mandolinist Chris Thile is one of the most widely publicized projects of its kind since the classical performances by jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis in 1990, or even, before that, since Barbra Streisand's Classical Barbra release of 1976; Streisand, like Thile (as part of the band Nickel Creek), was a former resident of the pop top 20, which Marsalis never reached. Thile has been a gleeful genre crosser whose efforts have ranged from post-bop jazz to alternative rock to Bach several times in the past. And the idea of playing Bach on a mandolin is not so radical in itself; other plucked stringed instruments played significant roles in his musical world. Thus there is no reason for Thile to treat this project as a novelty, and indeed he does not do so: his approach to Bach is serious. The ingenuity of these performances, which should appeal equally to Thile's longtime fans and to classical listeners with the slightest sympathy for crossover projects, is that he knows when to play it straight and when to adapt the music to the requirements of what he's doing here. The biggest departure from the score is the high speed of several of the fast movements that enable Thile to insert bluegrass-like runs into the music. Otherwise Thile keeps his tempos regular and his structures and articulation clear, with strong attacks from the mandolin filling the role of the violin's gutsy chords. He develops a repertoire of expressive devices to match the conventions of violin playing on which Bach drew; the quiet sound of the top of the mandolin's range, for instance, is very sensitively employed. Jeremy Denk, in his thoughtful booklet notes, characterizes the mandolin as "a harpsichord freed from its box," and Thile exploits this aspect of its sound nicely. You might complain that the program of this first volume, with two sonatas and one partita, does not make complete sense and was probably developed with an eye toward maximizing Nonesuch's profits from the eventual complete set. But otherwise this is an impressive job by a child-prodigy instrumentalist who has accomplished the very difficult task of continuing to challenge himself in productive ways as an adult. © TiVo
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Country - Released January 1, 2004 | Sugar Hill Records

Nickel Creek -- the group and the individual members -- have become something of a cottage industry, releasing multiple albums in multiple styles. Chris Thile's latest -- Deceiver -- is something of a surprise because his previous solo releases have concentrated on his hotshot mandolin picking. Now, he follows in the musical footsteps of Nickel Creek's last album, This Side, a half-experimental project that qualified as exceptionally innovative bluegrass. The approach, combining personal songwriting with studio techniques (think mid-'60s Beatles with a bluegrass background), jumps the hurdle that keeps most bluegrass bands -- traditional and progressive -- sounding pretty much like the bands that have come before them. Thile's Deceiver is even more experimental than This Side, as though he's been listening to the Bad Livers along with the Beatles. While the impulse is an enticing one, and while the musical results are often intriguing, the project seems more like a collage of fragments than an artistic whole. The album kicks off with what sounds like a baldly confessional ballad about falling in love with an underage girl. "The Wrong Idea" is, musically speaking, one of the best pieces on the album, though the lyric is a bit embarrassing. "On Ice" is another love song that starts strong, but it begins to meander at the two-minute mark. Here and at other places on Deceiver, Thile adds experimental odds and ends that don't really fit with the song. He may return to the same melodic theme at the song's end, but it's a little like calling anything you put between two pieces of bread a sandwich. Deceiver also shifts radically from song to song, jumping from quiet instrumentals like "Waltz for Dewayne Pomeroy" to alternative rock like "Empire Falls." Perhaps the project would've benefited from a tighter production, something to bring Thile's ideas to full fruition. Still, fans of Nickel Creek's last album will appreciate Deceiver's progressive strains, and prefer an imperfect product over yet another predictable bluegrass album. © Ronnie D. Lankford Jr. /TiVo
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Country - Released January 1, 2006 | Sugar Hill Records

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Jazz - Released January 20, 2017 | Nonesuch

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Country - Released January 1, 1994 | Sugar Hill Records

According to the liner notes, in most ways Chris Thile was typical 13-year-old when he put out this debut album (and the photos of the cherubic, Chicago Cubs-bedecked teen would seem to confirm this). From the musical evidence, though, he was a typical teenager in the way that, say, Mozart was probably a typical teenager. The level of playing and compositional skill, not to mention the imagination, displayed on Leading Off... is no less than virtuosic. And, incidentally, thrillingly so. Thile already proved himself a master mandolinist on this date (not to mention a pretty accomplished acoustic guitarist and fiddler, and a burgeoning banjo picker), which would be astounding in itself. But he also proves himself a strong, if not yet fully mature, writer and arranger. It's startling to consider that one composition ("Shipwrecked") dates back to when the young man was a seasoned veteran of eight years. For all the bluegrass-level pyrotechnics, though, the music sounds slightly too subdued at times, as if Thile didn't yet feel confident enough, at least in the studio, to completely let loose. There are only a few songs on which the group breaks the proceedings down foggy-mountain style (including a great version of Bill Monroe's "Old Dangerfield"), but even a couple of those never quite reach the breaking point. Nevertheless, Thile shines throughout, and particularly shows a tenderness and depth of feeling on the ballads (the gorgeous "Faith River") and spirituals -- even the lighthearted swing tune "Panhandle Rag" -- that he should not yet, by all rights, have possessed. But it's also informative to note that arguably the finest performance, and the song on which Thile seems to be having the most fun, comes on "For All It's Worth," on which he and his fellow (teenage) Nickel Creek cohort Sean Watkins play dueling mandolins, and with amazing dexterity. The album is not quite an out-of-the-ballpark success, but it's at least a solid gap double. And that, coming from a kid already playing with the big leaguers, is incredibly impressive. © Stanton Swihart /TiVo
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Jazz - Released November 15, 2016 | Nonesuch

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Jazz - Released January 6, 2017 | Nonesuch