Noam Pikelny: Beat The Devil and Carry A Rail

Punch Brothers’ banjo monster Noam Pikelny is set to releases his second solo project, Beat The Devil and Carry A Rail, on Compass October 25.

Fellow Punch Brothers Chris Thile and Chris Eldridge provide mandolin and guitar respectively, while Punchy fiddler Gabe Witcher makes his production debut. Though primarily featuring instrumental music, guest vocalists Tim O’Brien and Aoife O’Donovan from Crooked Still are featured on a track apiece.

Other performers include Stuart Duncan on fiddle, Mark Schatz on bass, Jerry Douglas on resonator guitar, and Bryan Sutton and David Grier on guitar. Thile only appears on a single track, Bear Dog Grit – a free from trio romp featuring Bryan Sutton on guitar – with Tim O’Brien handling the bulk of the mando work.

Pikelny covers a wide ranges of stylistic approaches and material, from a old time/bluegrass banjo duet with Steve Martin on the old time classic, Cluck Old Hen, through spins into tunes clearly influenced by folk, ragtime and the whatever-you-call it type of music that he, Thile and the rest of the merry Punch Brothers clan are creating on the shoulders of new acoustic giants like Grisman, Rice, Bush and O’Connor.

A real standout is his gentle rendition of Tom Wait’s Fish And Bird, which combines O’Donovan’s wispy vocals with an understated but lyrical banjo accompaniment.

Noam is offering a free download of the albums opening track from his web site, in exchange for your email address. It’s a driving new acoustic/bluegrass number called Jim Thompson’s Horse. Here’s a taste:

Jim Thompson’s Horse: []

Throughout the album, Pikelny’s playing is inventive, virtuosic and gorgeous. You don’t want to miss this one if the sound of the five string banjo appeals to you.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.