Thile solo breaks out from Nickel Creek

Music: In Concert/CDs

October 28, 2004|By Thomas Kintner | Thomas Kintner,HARTFORD COURANT

The young trio Nickel Creek has brought new fans to bluegrass music by bending the genre in fresh directions, exhibiting a commitment to diversity that suits its 23-year-old mandolin savant Chris Thile. Thile is the sole songwriter and performer on Deceiver, a varied, if occasionally unfocused, journey through a diverse sonic landscape.

Thile heists atmosphere and attitude from any number of Beatles patterns as he builds from light piano lilt to acidic electric guitar sizzle on "The Wrong Idea," and achieves similarly offbeat variety when he shifts gears from a whippoorwill mandolin line to a rock-style crescendo in "On Ice." His takes on life and love are more meditative than those musicians in his age group typically produce, ranging from the weariness of "Ready for Anything" to the wailing insistence that colors "Empire Falls," that rare rock tune that sports a blistering mandolin fill at its heart.

Nickel Creek fans will find familiarity in the straightforward box-stepper "Waltz for Dewayne Pomeroy" and the ebullient bob of "Jessamyn's Reel," but the rest of the set tinkers incessantly with expectations. Thile's rangy trip sometimes meanders past rewarding listening, but his explorations typically result in tunes such as the jazz-tinged "Locking Doors." The tune seems out of balance at first, but a closer inspection reveals Thile smartly anchoring the proceedings from the eye of its storm.

The Hartford Courant is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

Chris Thile

Deceiver (Sugar Hill Records) ***

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