I’ve had a couple albums running nonstop on my iPod lately, both of which are excellent efforts by talented solo musicians.
First up is Chris Thile’s third solo album, Not All Who Wander Are Lost (2001). For those of you familiar with poor-man’s bluegrass band Nickel Creek (bluegrass for people who don’t like bluegrass), Thile is Nickel Creek’s mandolin prodigy. Not a fan of Nickel Creek myself, I was a little wary when I heard of Thile. But I became an instant fan of his solo material, which is nothing like Nickel Creek (a good thing). This album particularly is phenomenal from first track to last, featuring 12 instrumental songs led by Thile’s mandolin and joined by several guest performers like Bela Fleck and Jerry Douglas. With Celtic, bluegrass, classical, and jazz influences, this album shines as a fantastic work of musicianship. Thile’s songwriting is tight and execution is flawless. The only negative thing I would say is that his picking sometimes seems like showmanship, but that might just be because I’m jealous.
The second album in heavy rotation is Kyle Hollingsworth’s second solo album, Then There’s Now (2009). While I wasn’t that taken with Hollingsworth’s first mostly-instrumental album, this lyric-driven album is solid, with the catchy hooks and grooving rhythms he is known for added to well-written songs. The first album seemed to all sound the same, but Hollingsworth (keyboardist/organist for The String Cheese Incident) definitely takes a step forward to becoming a great solo performer with this album. The two instrumental pieces on this album are distinctive and complement the rest of the album. Highlights include the pop-culture-criticism “Piece of Mine,” instrumental “Phat Cat,” dreamy “Don’t Wake Me,” and melodic rocking “She.”
In other music news, two members of String Cheese Incident, one from Railroad Earth, and two from New Monsoon have recently recorded together as the band The Contribution. The album is due out in January 2010, and it should be excellent. RRE’s Tim Carbone (fiddle) heads the group.