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Chris Thile
Sugar Hill Records

Chris Thile has spent over ten years becoming known as perhaps the best young bluegrass mandolin player in the world.  As a member of Nickel Creek, he has shown a remarkable ability to adapt to all forms of music, while retaining the bluegrass flavor in a great deal of that group’s music.

On Deceiver, Thile expands his horizons even further.  The trademark mandolin is here ­ witness instrumental pieces “Waltz for Dwayne Pomeroy” and “Jessamyn’s Reel,” the most Nickel Creek-like songs here.  But this is a true solo album ­ Thile plays drums, guitar, piano, and bass here as well.

“The Wrong Idea” opens the disc, and serves notice that Thile’s latest is more Radiohead than Nickel Creek.  At times almost dischordant, it is the tale of a seemingly naïve young man exploring the possibilities of a new romance, yet fearing the idea of going public with it.  “Locking Doors,” inspired by the movie As Good As It Gets, is a product of the Mutual Admiration Society tours with Glen Phillips, a song Thile wrote over three years ago.  Here the arrangement is new, with a wave of Stax-like keyboards.

“Empire Falls” is another older tune, taking its name from the Richard Russo novel, and sometimes performed on previous Nickel Creek tours.  “On Ice,” a Jackson Browne soundalike, shows its subject fearing that love is lost, and fearing his own self-destruction:

  Thank God you’re here
  I need you to hear this
  So sick of my sh—, I promise
  I’m through tempting fate…

In short (and I do mean short ­ the CD clocks in at less than 35 minutes), Thile is exploring all realms of music, and experimenting with new instruments (who else would record an album while learning to play keyboards?).  He is immensely talented, but those looking for a Nickel Creek type project here will be disappointed.  Those who hear Thile by himself with no knowledge of his former work will be impressed by his ability to shift seamlessly from style to style.  Deceiver is a great album with a lot
of depth to it.

Brian A. Smith
16 November 2004



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