How to Grow a Woman From the Ground

So who’s heard of Nickel Creek? They’re a tight progressive bluegrass trio that have been together since the 90’s. Alison Krauss produced their self titled debut on Sugar Hill Records in 2000 (the same year I saw them at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival). Well, their talented 25-year old mandolin player, Chris Thile, has released a few solo albums of his own, with another one due out September 12th. Chris has been playing mandolin since the age of 5, and was working on his first solo album by the age of 12 (I’m feeling like an underachiever here!).

The new record, ‘How to Grow a Woman from the Ground’, features old tunes and new. Thile gives the traditional treatment to the Strokes (“Heart in a Cage”) and the White Stripes (“Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground”), and also covers tunes by Jimmie Rodgers and Gillian Welch.

He brings in friends Chris Eldridge (guitarist and member of the Infamous Stringdusters), a couple members of Leftover Salmon – Greg Garrison (bass, vocals) and Noam Pikelny (banjo, vocals) – and fiddler Gabe Witcher.

chris thile

It’s definitely recommended that you pick up this CD when it’s released next month. You can check out some tunes on Chris’ MySpace page (listen to his fingers FLY on “The Beekeeper”), and I’m going to play one for you here that steers right into beautifully written ballad territory. This tune wins me over to Chris’ side, showing that the man knows how to write a great song: lyrics that are simple, yet so poignant and powerful. Nice work Chris. Check it out.

Chris Thile: You’re an Angel, and I’m Gonna Cry (mp3) – from the forthcoming release ‘How to Grow a Woman from the Ground’ (out Sept. 12)

Chris Thile on: MySpace | Amazon | Sugar Hill Records

Crooked Still

I have some bluegrass to get out of my system. A few of my coming posts will lean toward the bluegrass / traditional side as I showcase some cool artists I’ve come across. First off is Crooked Still.

For those who had the pleasure of seeing Bruce’s Seeger Sessions tour, you undoubtedly noticed the banjo player with the bushy ‘do. His name is Greg Listz (Dr. Gregory Liszt actually, he has a Ph.D. in Biology from M.I.T.), and his full time gig is banjo man for Boston bluegrass outfit Crooked Still. Joining Greg are sweet singin’ Aoife O’Donovan (it’s pronounced “EEf-uh”), Rushad Eggleston on cello, and Corey DiMario on bass.

One of the free mp3’s offered on their web site is this forlorn bluegrass ballad. I like the dynamic of the instruments. The cello and banjo trading off riffs is a cool touch. And Aofie’s soft & sweet vocals add a lot to the tune as well. As you’ll hear, there’s some serious folkybluegrass goin’ down in Beantown. If you like what you hear, pick up one of their CD’s.

Crooked Still: Look on and Cry (mp3) – from their debut CD, ‘Hop High’. You can check it out here.

Climbing the Creaking Tree

Cameron, my friend from the Great White North, recommended today’s selection: Toronto’s Creaking Tree String Quartet. This is some interesting stuff. They explain on their web site:

This ensemble, made up of violinist John Showman, guitarist Brad Keller, mandolinist Andrew Collins and bassist Brian Kobayakawa, has a distinct sound that lives in the cracks between idioms. It’s acoustic roots music that combines intricate phrasing with imaginative rhythms. Too outside for bluegrass, but too driving for jazz; too free to be chamber music, but too structured for the avant-garde.

Their web site has a good number of downloads which I’ve been checking out for the last couple of weeks. My selection for you leans more toward bluegrass. I guess I’m lamenting the fact that I’m missing this year’s Telluride Bluegrass Festival. But I will be back in 2006. Oh yes, I will.

Creaking Tree String Quartet: Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (mp3)