The third installment of Fiddlefreak’s series on new mandolin-guitar duos features a record from Chris Thile and Michael Daves titled Sleep with One Eye Open and released today on Nonesuch Records. We all know mando virtuoso Chris Thile from his days with Nickel Creek and more recently the Punch Brothers, but Michael Daves may not be as familiar to most folks. Not many guitarists could keep up with Thile lick-for-lick, but Daves does just that, and sings his heart out as well. In fact these two guys manage to bring a deliciously frantic, young-punk enegy to a repertoire usually reserved for staid, middle-aged bluegrassers. One Eye Open is my favorite release so far this year.
In August 2005, Thile met Daves at a mid-week bluegrass jam at the Baggot Inn in NYC. Says Daves, “We went to places musically, even in that first meeting, that I had never gone to with other players, so it was really exciting just for that experience itself, to be so pleasantly surprised at how much Chris had to offer beyond his technical prowess, beyond the very clean presentation of Nickel Creek. He was really going for it.”
Recorded live to tape over four days at Jack White’s Third Man studio in Nashville, TN, the album is a collection of 16 traditional tunes by bluegrass legends like The Monroe Brothers, The Louvin Brothers, Jimmy Martin, and Flatt & Scruggs. Says Thile, “Jack was really, really generous and let us cut the whole record at his place on his beautiful two-inch eight-track machines. It was just so much fun, man, like records ought to be—all ribbon mics and not that many of ‘em, and singing into just one RCA 77. It’s just like we do live, huddled around a microphone doing our best.
“It was important for us was to get that brother duet thing, but with this Lower East Side punk energy. One of the most enjoyable things about this experience was to underline the slightly delinquent side of bluegrass.”
LISTEN: My Little Girl in Tennessee