Chris Thile & Mike Marshall
First Appeared in The Music Box, January 2006, Volume 13, #1
Written by John Metzger
There’s no question that Chris Thile is an extraordinarily talented instrumentalist, and the accolades that he has received — which began when, at the age of 12, he won the national mandolin championship and recorded his first album — certainly are well-deserved. The problem, however, is that on his projects outside the pop-imbued bluegrass of Nickel Creek, he detrimentally forsakes the emotional core of his material and instead reverts back to relying too heavily upon the technical proficiency that guided his earliest endeavors. Live Duets, his latest collaboration with fellow picker Mike Marshall, fares better than most of his solo, studio efforts, largely because performing in front of an audience has the effect of keeping the musicians from becoming too cerebral. Indeed, although the collection features a similar stylistic breadth as the duo’s 2003 endeavor Into the Cauldron, its 11 tracks better capture the chemistry between Marshall and Thile. Indeed, although there’s an impeccable precision to their well-rehearsed delivery, their interplay also exudes a coltish air as the two artists repeatedly join one another in a splendid, ethereal dance. Whether firing through the breezy groove of Byron’s, exploring the stateliness of J.S. Bach Dm Gigue (from Solo Violin Partita #2), or slipping gently into the fragile refrains of ’Til Dawn, Thile and Marshall create a warm and captivating ambience that makes the intricacies of their collaborations strikingly effective.
Live Duets is available
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2006 The Music Box