CHRIS THILE: Deceiver (Sugar Hill)
The press release “talking points” about Chris Thile’s Deceiver are, first, it’s a new direction for the newgrass mandolin virtuoso, and second, he plays all the instruments and wrote all of the material. Thile certainly does a dandy job with a wide range of axes, from electric guitar and fiddle to drums and, of course, mandolin. But the newness of direction, blending rock, jazz, classical and pop, and featuring Thile’s vocals on most cuts, is only in comparison to his previous instrumental solo albums—Thile’s full-time gig as a member of Nickel Creek has already hinted at such proclivities. Granted, it is a bit of a shock to have the album’s first track, “The Wrong Idea,” open with a piano and feature some searing electric guitar along with nakedly vulnerable lyrics. But track two, “On Ice,” is anchored by a skittering mandolin figure that sounds like nobody but Thile, and by the end of the disc, a key hallmark of Thile’s musical personality is as obvious as ever—a rare ability to blend seriously sophisticated musical ideas with ingratiating, melodic hooks. Perhaps most impressive is that Deceiver is a song-cycle that is as richly satisfying as an organic whole as it is in its moment-to-moment style-hopping.
More about Chris Thile:THILE - Chris Thile, feature (Bluegrass Unlimited, June, 2007) NICKEL - Nickel Creek at Schuba's (Chgo Trib, May 9, 2001)