Surely among the most enigmatic artists anywhere near bluegrass and acoustic music is Chris Thile, whose entertainment career has exploded since he was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship in 2012. The award brings tremendous attention to its annual recipients, and includes a $500,000 unrestricted grant. Since that time, Chris took over hosting of NPR’s popular A Prairie Home Companion, rebranded as Live From Here, which ended up a casualty of budget cuts during 2020 COVID-19 restrictions.
Thile’s genius is such that it could never be confined into a single musical genre, though he still leads his envelope-pushing bluegrass combo, Punch Brothers, which plays original folk and pop music using bluegrass instruments. Along the way he rode Nickel Creek’s acclaim to star status, and released albums of his own neo-classical music as well as mandolin arrangements of Bach violin pieces.
Unquestionably a virtuoso of the highest order, he started gaining followers before even getting to high school, releasing bluegrass mandolin records that had veteran players scratching their heads. And his retained love for bluegrass is evident whenever the subject comes up, especially regarding his desire to take his own son around to bluegrass festivals and conventions like his parents did with him as a boy.
New comes word that a new solo project is imminent, featuring Chris and his mandolin tracked live in the studio on a set of Thile compositions. Titled Laysongs, he describes it somewhat cryptically.
“It’s an ode to singing hymns in a roomful of people with your mind bouncing from God to the possible lack thereof to what to drink with dinner.”
Laysongs, the album, is due to hit on June 4, but Chris has released a live video from the studio of the title cut to offer a taste of the next record.
Pre-orders for Laysongs can be placed now from many of the popular download and streaming sites online.