Mandolin virtuoso Chris Thile closed the book, at least for now, on the popular progressive bluegrass group Nickel Creek last year and recorded Punch, his first disc with the Punch Brothers. The centerpiece of the album is "The Blind Leaving the Blind," a 40-minute, four-part suite combining American folk, jazz, and classical music. Here's what he's been listening to recently:
Julliard String Quartet
Bartok: Six Quartets (Sony, 2001)
I've had this record forever, but I'm just now at a place where I can get in and really get into it. It's the six string quartets that span his entire career. It's a great record, but it also has a book that has the score to all six quartets and also has a little bit of analysis. I'm still on the first one, trying to get inside it. Bartok is a composer I very humbly feel a certain connection with. He was so interested in folk music. He was the first really dedicated ethnomusicologist. He liked Hungarian folk tunes and found a beautiful, meaningful way to integrate that material into his own material.
In Rainbows (Ato, 2008)
It's typically, predictably great stuff. They always come through when you need them to.
Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? (Polyvinyl, 2007)
I'm still really, really enjoying their output. The latest is Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?—which is also one of the best names for a record ever.
Norman Blake and Tony Rice
Blake and Rice (Rounder, 1987)
The first record that Norman Blake and Tony Rice did together. I particularly like the first two tracks. The boys and I have been covering "Green Light on the Southern," and I think we're going to start doing "New River Train" as well.