When I first read about Chris Thile's latest CD,
How to Grow A Woman from the Ground, I was a bit curious and
excited. It was my understanding he was "getting back to his roots,"
namely his bluegrass roots by putting together a group of musicians
with bluegrass instruments and using a more traditional recording
approach. So upon first hearing it, I was a little disappointed.
Over time, though, Chris Thile's latest offering
has grown on me (pun intended). First, it goes without saying
(because everyone else has already said it numerous times) Chris
Thile is a musical genius, a mandolin wizard, and possibly bluegrass
legend in the making, as he is taking the genre in somewhat of a new
direction. But to simply confine him to the world of bluegrass is
not right as he proves every time he plays. This CD is more evidence
of Thile's crossover ability as he covers songs from the likes of
Jack White, The Strokes, and even the legendary father of country
music Jimmy Rodgers. Plus he offers several original tracks as well.
For example, the Jack White song Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground
stands out as one of my favorites on this CD. Not being a big White
Stripes fan, I had never heard the original until after I heard
Thile's version. Frankly, I like Chris' take on the song better with
his hard hitting rhythmic mandolin licks, plus the mind-blowing
musicianship of those around him. And his cover of The Strokes'
Heart In A Cage is not to be missed, with its acoustic rock
feel. Jimmy Rodgers' Brakeman's Blues gets a little different
treatment with Chris' own style of yodel, if that is what you can
Now, I mentioned my disappointment upon first
hearing this CD. Well, initially I was not pleased with the
production quality. Chris and company gathered around two
microphones and recorded How To Grow with a sort of live
performance feel to it, more of the way it was done decades ago.
Granted I liked the idea when I first heard of it. Yet, at first I
felt like I couldn't hear some of the instrumentation as well as it
should be heard. At times it almost sounds like they are playing in
a cave. Give it time though and the more you listen, the more your
ears get attuned to it. Your appreciation of what is going on in the
studio will grow as mine did. Overall I'd recommend How To Grow A
Woman from the Ground to mostly Chris Thile fans, but also to
anyone who is looking for some really great acoustic music. Chris'
instrumental originals are of course phenomenal. I am more a fan of
his playing than his voice, so the vocals overall do not do much for
me, but to each his own I guess.