Noam Pikelny Plays Kenny Baker Plays Bill Monroe

Noam Pikelny Plays Kenny Baker Plays Bill MonroeSay that three times fast…

Compass Records has just announced the October 1 release of a new solo project from Punch Bothers banjoist Noam Pikelny. And it’s quite a departure from his prior album, Beat The Devil and Carry A Rail, which was concentrated on his original tunes.

This new one is just what the title suggests. Noam has taken the iconic Kenny Baker Plays Bill Monroe record from 1976, on which Baker laid down definitive versions of a dozen Monroe fiddle tunes, and reproduced them on banjo with a killer Nashville rhythm section – just like the original.

Noam says that he spent several months transcribing Baker’s solos note-for-note, and then arranging them to keep the integrity of the fiddle tracks, while making them work for banjo. If you’re familiar with his playing, it’s hard to imagine anything that would be beyond him technically, and this one audio sample available (on video) shows what a masterful job he has done on Big Sandy River.


The opening break is almost an exact replica of Baker’s treatment of the tune, and from there Noam takes off, along with Bryan Sutton on guitar, Ronnie McCoury on mandolin, Stuart Duncan on fiddle, and Mike Bub on bass. Even the tag lick is dead on.

I can’t wait to hear his versions of some of my other Baker/Monroe favorites, like Fiddler’s Pastime, Road To Columbus, Wheel Hoss and Cheyenne. This will be something special.

Pre-orders will be enabled on August 20.

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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.