Chris Thile has already garnered tremendous critical acclaim through his work with Nickel Creek and his previous solo recordings. His newest project, How to Grow A Woman From The Ground (Sugar Hill Records), is his best and most daring effort to date.
To say that this record is simply a bluegrass album is an understatement and most unfair to Thile and his band. While firmly rooted in bluegrass, there are also hints of traditional country and blues weaved throughout these tracks. And Thile relies not only on his own wonderful compositions ("You're An Angel, and I'm Gonna Cry" is by the far the best of his songs on this album), but also covers songs from a wide variety of other sources providing a sometimes eclectic and yet completely coherent story that is told through the music.
Each of the musicians on this album are young, talented musicians that Thile met after finishing work on the last original Nickel Creek album, Why Should The Fire Die? If the names are not familiar now they soon will be: Chris Eldridge (guitar), Greg Garrison (bass), Noam Pikelny (banjo), Gabe Witcher (fiddle). Listening to them play you would think they had been together for years rather than just a couple of months. The chemistry among these guys is apparent.
This album also stands out because it is recorded in traditional bluegrass fashion: everything is performed live in front of two microphones to capture the sound. There are no remixes, no overdubbing or any other manipulation of the music. It's straightforward performances all around. This gives the music a different feel that most other albums of this type.
With this album, Thile is moving away from the successes he's seen with Nickel Creek and in a new direction. The good news is that with his new band, Chris Thile can demonstrate not only that he is a first rate musician (he is by far one of the best mandolin players around) but a first rate singer/songwriter as well. How To Grow A Woman From The Ground is a wonderful first step in the new phase of Thile's career.