Chris Thile & Michael Daves at Lincoln Hall | Concert preview
Bluegrass wunderkind Chris Thile continues to rewrite the playbook with guitarist Michael Daves, a music buddy he met at a 2005 jam session.
Bluegrass wunderkind Chris Thile rewrote the playbook as the point man for Nickel Creek, a trio of kids from Southern California who contemporized the high lonesome sounds of founding father Bill Monroe for all kinds of listeners in the ’00s as they bridged alt-country, Christian, pop and indie-rock audiences. Pavement covers and mad styles on the frets suggested there was, indeed, life after Béla Fleck’s overheated prog-grass.
Since the 2007 breakup, Thile’s pushed his compositional ambitions to the next level with the Punch Brothers, a sextet of irreverent daredevils whose zeal for chamber music suites and deconstructions of hip-hop hits make them a protean pleasure. Taking a break, the guitarist and singer brings his mandolin on the road with guitarist Michael Daves, a music buddy he met at a 2005 jam session, to play songs from their new album, Sleep with One Eye Open. Old-school fans will be thrilled that this is a “straight” bluegrass project, with antecedents in the 1980 duets recorded by Ricky Skaggs and Tony Rice.
The vivid performances still push the envelope, but the touchstones are time-tested: the Louvin Brothers’ “You’re Running Wild,” Gene Autry’s “20/20 Vision” and Lester Flatt’s title track, to name three. Daves, a Georgia native who now calls Brooklyn home, lacks Thile’s profile but clearly not his chops. He’s got to keep both eyes open to keep up with this running partner.