Chris Thile & Michael Davis 18+ Early Warnings (Music) Recommended Soundboard

When: Sat., Sept. 10, 9 p.m. 2011

Since releasing his first record in 1994, when he was just 13, mandolinist Chris Thile has loomed large in the world of bluegrass. First he was a dazzling prodigy, and since then he's been a steady seeker, pushing the genre's boundaries—from the pop and folk crossover experiments of Nickel Creek to the relatively progressive structural and virtuosic turns in his current working band, the Punch Brothers. Thile has never sung with the barbershop-quartet unctuousness that spoils so much contemporary bluegrass, but at the same time he's never made music that feels particularly spontaneous or raw—and that's what makes Sleep With One Eye Open (Nonesuch), a rough-and-tumble duo session with guitarist and singer Michael Daves, such a wonderful surprise. Thile first met and played with Daves at a New York bluegrass jam session in 2005, and together they tackle bluegrass standards by the likes of Bill Monroe and Flatt & Scruggs, old-school honky-tonk tunes, and durable folk numbers. Both men are so technically skilled they could sound nonchalant playing almost anything, but here they give themselves over to an unfussy, almost artless urgency, bashing away at their instruments with such abandon you'd swear they were bloodying their knuckles. They've also developed an excellent vocal blend, clearly building on the sweet brotherly harmonies of the Delmores, Louvins, and Everlys—and despite the sweetness of their singing, it's just as intense as their picking and strumming. —Peter Margasak

Price: $17

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