Noam Pikelny & Stuart Duncan | Maurer Hall, Old Town School of Folk Music | Folk & Country | Chicago Reader

Noam Pikelny & Stuart Duncan Recommended Early Warnings (Music) Soundboard Image

When: Thu., May 22, 8 p.m. 2014

The latest album by Punch Brothers banjo ace Noam Pikelny has its beginnings in a halfway joke. Years into his obsession with progressive bluegrass, Pikelny began digging into the music's traditional side, eventually becoming a fan of the 1976 LP Kenny Baker Plays Bill Monroe—Baker, a fiddler, does instrumental renditions of songs associated with Monroe, his longtime boss. According to the liner notes of Pikelny's new record, when he sent a text to mandolinist Ronnie McCoury (son of bluegrass legend Del) about making a record called Noam Pikelny Plays Kenny Baker Plays Bill Monroe, he wasn't being entirely serious—but then he went ahead and did exactly that. Pikelny's track-by-track cover of the Baker LP, released last year by Compass, benefits from a killer backing band—McCoury, bassist Mike Bub, fiddler Stuart Duncan, and guitarist Bryan Sutton—and from the Chicago native's combination of fundamental bluegrass chops and ingenious updates of the material, which involve reharmonization and switching up the roles of the instruments. Pikelny not only matches Baker's technical dexterity, he also wears a comically wide polyester tie on the album cover that looks a lot like the one Baker wore in '76—his homage is playful as well as sincere. Tonight Pikelny duets with Duncan, one of the music's most versatile and in-demand fiddlers; he's a longtime member of the Nashville Bluegrass Band and a recent collaborator with Chris Thile and Yo-Yo Ma on The Goat Rodeo Sessions. —Peter Margasak

Price: $26, $24 for members

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