Tag Archives: bluegrass

Johann Sebastian Thile

I gave Tyler two tickets to the sold out Punch Brothers show at Mercy Lounge here in Nashville for Valentine’s Day. Speaking for the two of us, we LOVE bluegrass music, and progressive bluegrass even more so. It’s therefore no surprise that we can’t get enough of Thile and company.

Chris Thile became a household name (in folk and bluegrass loving households, anyway) as the mandolinist of Nickel Creek. A few years ago though, the young trio took an indefinite hiatus to focus on other projects. Now, as much as I looooved Nickel Creek, Chris Thile’s new(-ish) endeavor, a bluegrass(-ish) quintet called Punch Brothers, is one incredible listen… and their live show is even better.

Tuesday night was my fourth time seeing the band, and they never cease to amaze. Their most recent album (released June 2010) is called Antifogmatic, which Thile’s explains as “an old term for a bracing beverage, generally rum or whiskey, that a person would have before going out to work in rough weather to stave off any ill effects. This batch of tunes,” he claims, “could be used in much the same way, and includes some characters who would probably benefit mightily, if temporarily, from a good antifogmatic.” Yeah, pretty awesome.

Punch Brothers played of everything from The Strokes’ “Heart in a Cage” to The Beatles’ “Paperback Writer,” not to mention a string of their own works, both old and new. Below is Thile playing JS Bach’s “Sonata #1 in G Minor” in double time. Yes, double time.

1 of 2 songs in the encore, Mercy Lounge, February 15, 2011. Blow your mind.

P.S. If you’re interested in my official review of the show, the piece can be found on my portfolio.

Friday Favorite: Abigail Washburn


Abigail Washburn is an incredible woman, and she can play banjo like you wouldn’t believe, but that’s just one of a thousand things that make her a fascinating icon in bluegrass/folk music today. She led her whole life planning to be a lawyer in China. Yeah. Then one day, she picked up a banjo. And another day, she played at the International Bluegrass Music Assocation (IBMA) Conference in KY. And then she was an artist. Just like that. And thank goodness for that drastic re-route because the woman’s music is striking and rich, pastoral and elegant. Washburn’s 2005 debut, Songs of a Traveling Daughter, was called sparse and hauntingly beautiful, but her sophomore effort, City of Refuge, released just this week, is full-bodied and warm.

Washburn’s music seems to slip into one’s consciousness from worlds away. The strings’ accompaniment creates a gossamer film over each of her songs, diffusing their radiant luminosity to a gentle golden glow, allowing their harmonies to wash over the listener subtly, graciously. Washburn’s vocals are pleasant and feminine, falling somewhere between Norah Jones and Alison Krauss.

Highlights from City of Refuge include the title track, “Bring Me My Queen,” “Ballad of Treason,” “Last Train,” and “Bright Morning Stars.” I highly recommend listening to a few of these tracks on Abigail’s MySpace and watching this quick interview with Washburn herself about the making of the album:

For my official review of City of Refuge, see my portfolio.

Most Anticipated Albums of 2011

It’s exactly a week into 2011, and while researching albums to review in the coming months, I realized that there is a lot of good music ready to drop this year. I also realized that if I weren’t actively looking for this information, I probably wouldn’t have known until much later. So I’m sharing a list of my 15 Most Anticipated Albums of 2011 (most of which have street dates in the first quarter, confirmed releases in the second quarter, or are just informed speculation for the rest of the year…). So(!), counting down from fifteen:

15. Red Hot Chili Peppers; Title: TBA; Release: Summer – The Chilis took a 2-year break after touring for 2006’s ambitious double album, “Stadium Arcadium,” and by the time they reconvened in 2009, Josh Klinghoffer had replaced guitarist John Frusciante. Recently, drummer Chad Smith leaked that the band has been experimenting with some Afropop influences for their 10th studio LP, and I don’t know about you, but that’s enough to get me excited for this summer new release.

14. James Blunt; Some Kind of Trouble; Jan 18 – James Blunt’s debut album Back to Bedlam brought him quite a bit of fame back in 2005, and finally after 6 years of nothing, Blunt is putting out new material. The single “Stay the Night” sounds pretty canned (actually like a rip-off of Mraz’s “I’m Yours”), but I rocked that debut album my senior year of high school, and I’m interested to see what’s next.

13. Jay-Z and Kanye West; Watch the Throne; Spring
What originally started out as an EP bringing these two titans of hip-hop together has grown to an anticipated full album project. The set’s first single, “H.A.M.” is set to be released next week, but the entire album won’t be out until March at the earliest.

12. The Get Up Kids; There are Rules; Jan 25 – 1999’s Something to Write Home About was one of the last great punk rock records of the 20th century, and it made The Get Up Kids the most popular band in America that most people had never heard of. After an official band break up and a farewell show in July 2005, they’re back together and releasing their fifth full-length album and first since the reunion.

11. Iron & Wine; Kiss Each Other Clean; Jan 25 – Sam Beam and company are officially on the Warner Bros’ roster for their fourth studio album, but there shouldn’t be any major changes to the group’s cozy, low-key sound. Single “Tree by the River” picks up right where 2007’s The Shepherd’s Dog left off, continuing to subtly expand the Iron & Wine sound without abandoning their folk roots.

10. Britney Spears; TBA; MarchBillboard is projecting that Britney Spears’ new single, “Hold It Against Me,” will likely become the 18th song to debut at No. 1 since their Hot 100 chart began keeping track in 1958.
Update (1.16.11): The track was released last Monday, and has been getting a lot of reactions (both good and bad) due to the major dubstep influence.

9. Death Cab for Cutie; Codes and Keys; Spring – 2008’s “Narrow Stairs” was a disappointing deviation from their previous work in my opinion, but long years of enjoying Death Cab’s work leave me open to another new album. For the group’s seventh LP, Ben Gibbard and company have experimented a lot with the recording process; Codes and Keys is said to feature plenty of new instrumentation (read: string sections).

8. My Morning Jacket; TBA; Spring – After  2008’s “Evil Urges,” MMJ frontman Jim James says the band is aiming for “loose and dirty” with their yet-to-be-titled sixth album. “We’re doing it all live, standing around in a circle,” James told Rolling Stone. Yessssss.

7. The Decemberists; The King is Dead; Jan 18 – After 2009’s sprawling rock opera The Hazards of Love, the Pacific Northwest folk rockers decided to keep things simple for their sixth album, opting for spare, rootsy arrangements (lots of harmonica, accordion, and acoustic guitar) and an absence of overarching concepts. So far, I’ve heard very good things.

6. Rush; Clockwork Angels; Spring – The Canadian prog-rockers began work on their 19th(!) studio album in early 2010 and expect to release it this spring. A sprawling lead single, “Caravan,” was released last summer. I’m crossing my fingers that they play a few new tunes at their Nashville arena show in April (for which I have killer tickets).

5. Adele; 21; Feb 2219, the 2008 debut album from this young Brit, sold almost a million copies and garnered four Grammy nominations. Her latest effort swaps dramatic ballads for a sound more reminiscent of classic country, as in the lead single “Rolling in the Deep.”

4. Alison Krauss; TBA; Feb – Alison Krauss hasn’t released any new music since “Raising Sand,” her acclaimed 2007 collaboration with Robert Plant. Details on her latest project are scarce, but her official website currently bills it as “Alison Krauss and Union Station featuring Jerry Douglas,” so it looks like her longtime backing band will be back for the first time since 2004’s “Lonely Runs Both Ways.”
Update (1.18.11): The album is entitled Paper Airplane and will be in stores April 12th!

3. Lady Gaga; Born This Way; May 23 – Written while she was touring the world after her 2008 debut The Fame, Born This Way is about Gaga’s “little monsters,” her fans. She has said it could have as many as 20 songs and that she’s going for huge, anthemic melodies.

2. Fiona Apple; TBA; Spring – Singer-songwriter Apple has only released three albums since 1996, and nothing since 2005’s Extraordinary Machine. Apple released “So Sleepy” for a benefit album last year, but that’s about all the info on the new project there is.

1. Ingrid Michaelson; TBA; Summer – Over the past few years, I’ve really loved watching Ingrid Michaelson grow and expand her sound, her fan base, and her songwriting. If her new single “Parachute” is any indication, Michaelson has got a whole new and different thing up her sleeve.
Update (1.16.11):
The official music video for the song came out a few days ago! See here.

Other Notables include releases from Cold War Kids, Jan 25; Bright Eyes, Feb 15; Bush, Feb; R.E.M., March 8; Sara Evans, March 8; Yellowcard, March 22; Brad Paisley, Apr 19; Foo Fighters, Spring; Drake, Spring; Fleet Foxes, Spring; Beyonce, TBA; Coldplay, TBA; The Strokes, TBA; The Cars, TBA; U2 TBA; Jane’s Addiction, Fall; and Blink-182, Fall.