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Slow down as you approach the gate, and have your change ready....
Artist: Chris Thile and Mike Marshall
Label: Sugar Hill
Two of the world's most renowned mandolin players: Mike Marshall is a forty-something Irishman who has worked with David Grisman, Bela Fleck, Jerry Douglas, and most notably, Darol Anger. Chris Thile, best known for his work with Nickel Creek, is the twenty-something wunderkind who has been wowing audiences for over ten years with jaw-dropping solos, ranging from traditional Irish and Appalachian tunes, then mixing in contemporary pieces such as Coldplay's "Yellow" or the theme from the Super Mario Brothers video game.
Two musicians that are this well known could eye each other warily, or come to a mutual respect of each other's abilities. Thankfully, the latter was the case. Live Duets came from a brief tour Marshall and Thile did in support of their disc, Into the Cauldron, yet only one song here comes from that project.
This disc is filled with improvised solos, and the artists here are clearly having fun pushing each other to new heights. This is most noticeable on the "Joy Ride in a Toy Car/Hey Ho" medley, which features a lengthy, "how did he do that?" type of mandolin solo from Thile. "Sedi Donka" is a traditional Bulgarian tune, and "Carpathian Mountain Breakdown" is an Appalachian romp of dueling solos, with one musician frantically chasing the other. The first half of this disc in particular is musically brilliant, and "J.S. Bach Dm Gigue" is stunning in its beauty. My only quibble with the disc is that I keep waiting for the two musicians to _rock_ just a little more, which is hardly a fair expectation.
Brian A. Smith