Chris Thile: How to Grow a Woman from the Ground
How to Grow a Woman
from the Ground
On his latest solo album, Chris Thile of Nickel Creek sings about wanting to go back in time, but his desire isn't fueled by a feeling that the past is where his bluegrass-based music belongs. (Turns out yesteryear was the last time a particular lady was his.) Twenty-six-year-old Thile is one of roots music's most unabashed modernizers; on Nickel Creek's 2005 disc, Why Should the Fire Die?, Thile and his bandmates (who've declared that they'll dissolve Nickel Creek at the end of this year) actually found a way to pair bluegrass and emo that didn't feel any goofier than necessary. Thile's roots-music bona fides are solid (for those who care), but he's more interested in where string-band stuff can go than where it's been.
How to Grow a Woman from the Ground—the title comes from a tune of the same name by singer-songwriter Tom Brosseau, one of a handful of covers Thile tackles here—isn't as audacious as Why Should the Fire Die? And minus the clear-as-glass harmonies of Sean and Sara Watkins, it isn't as pretty. But it does extend Thile's mission: A mandolin-centered version of the White Stripes' "Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground" rocks harder than most NPR fare, while his take on the Strokes' "Heart in a Cage" emphasizes the sensitive-dude heart inside that band's cool-guy cage. Thile's originals tend to privilege his instrumental chops at the expense of his knack for hooks, which could be taken as a sign of retrenchment, if the chops were less Coheed and Cambria and more Del McCoury. Fire: not dead.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.