Staff Picks: Bluegrass

Welcome to our brand new staff picks!

While last week I picked an album myself and talked about how great it was, with this week begins the new face of staff picks. Every week, a different member of our staff will choose a group of albums based on a theme. This week’s featured staff member is Inti, and his theme is bluegrass. What follows is his writing, and his picks:

Bluegrass is one of my favourite forms of music, building off of common tunes and creating variations of rhythm, instrumentation, and musical ideas. Upbeat-feeling, fast-paced tunes, along with harmonic progressions from banjo, guitar, or mandolin, are recognizable facets of bluegrass. I love the implementation of mandolin into bluegrass. This multi-stringed, violin-tuned instrument is excellent at creating rhythmic changes within songs, especially evident in the music of the Punch Brothers and Nickel Creek (a fact easily explained by the legendary mandolinist, Chris Thile, shared by both!). Our music library just so happens to contain some great bluegrass CDs, and this staff pick post showcases my favorites. –Inti Figgis-Vizueta

Nickel Creek – Nickel Creek

With fast paced mandolin and banjo progressions, the combination of instrumental and lyric-accompanied music creates an enjoyable experience of rhythm-tapping and grin-inducing music.

The Punch Brothers – Punch

Punch is an album with long, instrumental songs, with variations between fiddle, banjo, and mandolin-driven musical ideas. A tad slower than Nickel Creek, “Punch” nevertheless packs a punch. An excellent accompaniment to homework.

Carolina Chocolate Drops – Genuine Negro Jig

The Carolina Chocolate Drops never cease to amaze me with their amazing vocals and the energy of their records. A revival of old American bluegrass and folk tunes, many written by people of colour, the Chocolate Drops create an album with a combination of banjo and fiddle-driven throw-downs and slower, more voice/lyric-based tunes. You’ll be humming tunes from this for days.

Chris Thile – Bach Sonatas & Partitas

Bach’s sound is recreated in Thile’s mandolin-based transposition of Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin. The quick and snark filled flicks of Thile’s wrist gives a new type of experience of Bach’s famously difficult multi-voiced pieces. Thile’s technical prowess on the mandolin is evident in many of these pieces, from the slower rich tones of the adagios to the incredibly fast double prestos, while his expression is pervasive throughout the whole album: that of a mandolin prodigy giving his modern and beautiful interpretation of Bach.

Nathaniel Smith – Arrhythmia

A relatively new CD to our collection, Arrhythmia is an album that blends elements of jazz, fiddle, and folk music into an interesting collection of cello-driven pieces. While not specifically bluegrass, these lilting tunes are an easy listen. While these melodies become a tad repetitive, this makes for a good falling asleep album.