published Friday, April 20th, 2012

Punch Brothers bring razor-edged progressive acoustic to Track 29

  • photo
    Contributed Photo -- The Punch Brothers include, from left, Gabe Witcher (fiddle), Noam Pikelny (banjo), Chris Thile (mandolin/vocals), Chris Eldridge (guitar), and former bassist Greg Garrrison, who has been replaced by Paul Kowert.

IF YOU GO

What: Punch Brothers with Chris Thile featuring Jesca Hoop.

When: 8 p.m. Sunday.

Where: Track 29, 1400 Market St.

Admission: $17 in advance, $19 at the door (additional $3 fee for ages 18-20; ID required).

Phone: 521-2929.

Venue website: www.track29.co.

Related links: www.punchbrothers.com.

When it comes to being a master of the mandolin, few artists could make a better claim to the title than Chris Thile, but he would be the first to argue that the instrument always offers room to grow.

Thile, 31, began playing at age 5. At age 8, he co-founded future Grammy Award-winning progressive folk trio Nickel Creek. By 12, he won the Walnut Valley Festival’s national mandolin championship in Winfield, Kan. He started his solo career the next year.

Whether he’s playing on his own, in duet albums or in any number of side projects, Thile said in a 2009 interview with the Times Free Press that his only ambition has always been to explore to the farthest range of his ability.

“It’s all personal stretching,” he said. “I don’t feel like I’ve ever had an agenda to push limits, other than my own.”

To help fuel that drive to grow musically, Thile surrounded himself in 2006 with four young, adventurous musicians with the technical skills to keep up with his ambitious compositions. All the group’s members have resided in New York City since 2009.

Thile originally assembled the members of Punch Brothers with his friend, fiddler Gabe Witcher, to accompany him on his solo album, “How To Grow a Woman From the Ground,” which received a Grammy nomination in 2006.

The group eventually settled on the name Punch Brothers shortly thereafter and began work on its debut, “Punch,” which included Thile’s ambitious 40-minute, four-movement composition “The Blind Leaving the Blind.”

In addition to Witcher and Thile, Punch Brothers membership includes former Leftover Salmon member and inaugural Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass recipient Noam Pikelny. Infamous Stringduster’s co-founder Chris Eldridge plays guitar for the group.

Punch Brothers’ newest member, Paul Kowert, is a former student of bass guru Edgar Meyer. He replaced founding bassist Greg Garrison in late 2008.

On Feb. 14, the band released its third studio project, “Who’s Feeling Young Now?” which a Paste Magazine review described as “a masterpiece of [the band’s] own.” Their tour in support of the album will include a stop Sunday to play at Track 29.

Despite performing with the instrumental lineup used in Punch Brothers nearly his entire life, Thile said that configuration still offers plenty of unexplored depths he hopes to chart.

“I feel like I can contribute to the development of that unit texturally,” he said. “The surface has only been scratched, so there’s lots more to do.”

about Casey Phillips...

Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...

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