Chris Thile & Michael Daves – Sleep With One Eye Open
Chris Thile and guitarist Michael Daves bring it all back home with Sleep With One Eye Open, a collection of fine brother-style duets and instrumentals. No frills—just great guitar and mandolin playing supporting two well-matched voices.
Although widely and deservedly renowned for his virtuoso mandolin skills and decidedly non-bluegrass sound with bands Nickel Creek and the Punch Brothers, Thile has always acknowledged a profound respect for the traditions and influence of bluegrass. And from start to finish, Thile and Daves instill this collection of mostly familiar songs with youthful joy and enthusiasm that infuses the sound of old-time brother duets with new energy.
In general, the approach is clean and raw sounding, more Monroe Brothers than Louvin Brothers. Some of the songs, such as the traditional brother duets “Rabbit In The Log” and “Bury Me Beneath The Willow” are punched up, rocking along with an edgy drive not usually associated with the pre-bluegrass sound. Others come from more classic bluegrass or country artists—some old, some more recent—but are redone as acoustic duets in a way that adds a new twist to already familiar songs. This is not the way we’re accustomed to hearing “Rain And Snow” or “20/20 Vision,” but it works wonderfully. From “Cry, Cry Darling” and “My Little Girl In Tennessee” to the title track, this is classic bluegrass and country music stripped down and re-imagined.
On the whole, it’s a welcome reminder that Thile can still lay down a traditional song as well as any mandolin player out there and at the same time remains the singular talent we’ve known him to be for so many years. In Michael Daves he’s found a superb foil and partner, vocally and instrumentally, to showcase a collection of familiar tunes in a refreshingly new way. (Nonesuch Records, 1290 Ave. of the Americas, New York, NY 10104, www.nonesuch.com.) AWIII