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You are part of a moving audience on a barge on a river floating past dozens of the best string bands ever formed.
Each band plays a different form: bluegrass, new grass, classical grass, Stravinsky, Mozart, chamber music, toe tapping, melancholic.
You hear something you really love and you want to stop. But the barge keeps moving.
There will be many for whom this experience is too strange to really get it.
But this band is so totally amazing and the playing is so good, you should not want to miss it.
Once you get to the 7th or 8th time through, and listen to the lyrics more carefully, you will begin to see the logic, the classical structure, the repetition of themes. The composer moves between mourning and hope and the music follows the emotion.
One thing that is consistent in the album is the excellent, infrequent, very focused singing on the part of Chris and the band. The singing is an accent and a sort of narration for your journey down the river. There is no whining or harsh notes. It's quite beautiful.
It's also notable that this is not a band backing Chris on the Mandolin. It is highly integrated and features the banjo (Noam Pikelny) and violin (Gabe Witcher) in many of the segments.
Chris actually plays more of a supporting role musically. Gabe Witcher's soulful and soaring fiddle is really the voice of much of the music. But the rest of the time, the 5 play as one. The dynamics are stunning, often swooping from raging bluegrass down to whisper soft fast picking and then back again.
So what is it about? No, it's not just about Thile's divorce.Read more ›
I didn't like this album on first listen. It's certainly filled with enough subtlety and nuance, but after a few spins, it's not growing on me. I've listened to enough Nickel Creek and Thile's solo albums to appreciate Thile's skill at venturing out to the fringes of popular music generes, and bringing back with him interesting and surprising takes on music, but I think he may have ventured too far for most on this one.
The problem lies in his reliance on atonal music. It's very abstract-- it lacks context and is seemingly aimless wandering up and down the fretboard; the instruments all seem to be playing different songs. A great example of this is the first two minutes or so of Blind Leaving the Blind Movement 2. The album has some great melodic moments mixed in with the atonal. I particularly like the comparatively simple "Nothing, Then".
I don't doubt that this album is genius, I don't doubt that those more musically inspired than myself can truly appreciate this album. But as for me, it's over my head.
After several more listens, I have to admit it has grown on me somewhat, I do enjoy Movement 1, Movements 3 and 4 have their moments, but the album is indisputably melancholy, and is simply not the pleasure to listen to that Thile's albums have been.
The only trouble some might experience with this album is that some may feel that there is just too much to take in. Think about if King Crimson played acoustic folk instruments instead of the typical rock band arsenal. Especially with the epic, 4 part, 42 minute suite, The Blind Leaving the Blind, some may simply become overwhelmed with the complexity of Thile's writing. Some may feel that Thile has written the musician's music. I've always been a sucker for musicians outside of the classical music world trying to write music that is similar in scale and artistry of a great symphony, and I think that the Punch Brothers have done exactly what bands like Genesis, Dream Theater and Spock's Beard have done in the progressive rock world. This is progressive acoustic music (I hesitate to call it progressive bluegrass), and it has progressed far beyond where anyone has tried to take it before. So if you're up for a challenging listening experience, start at the Punch Bowl and keep going. The epic work may take a few listens, but if you give it a chance, I think you will find it incredibly rewarding.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Greatest piece of music I've ever listened to. Your ears find new things every time you listen to "The Blind Leaving the Blind"Published 5 months ago by Amazon Customer
This is gorgeous, genius music and, contrary to some reviews, not at all "difficult" to my ear. Read morePublished 19 months ago by Hope I. Help
A gem of an album. People who came at it from the angle of traditional bluegrass might not care for it much. Read morePublished 23 months ago by T. Scheurich
Chris Thile is a premier mandolin player. If you listen to the four movements of "The Blind Leaving the Blind" which was written by Chris, you will hear what a great... Read morePublished on May 3, 2014 by Cheryl Egelston
Funny, how I only listened to this CD once. Despite the good intentions and the band's superb musicianship throughout, the tunes got on my nerves. Read morePublished on November 6, 2013 by Junior Marbles
I only recently discovered the punch brothers. Amazing musicians with fresh new creativity and great style, panache and all around funPublished on May 22, 2013 by HFisher
I think the 1st release of these crazy-talented guys as an ensemble. A bit self-indulgent, some of it almost sounds like a movie theme (which Chris has done, with a song or two in... Read morePublished on March 11, 2013 by Pain Jane