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Chris Thile's Deciever is a broad leap from his work with Nickel Creek and his previous instrumental records. Thile plays over 25 instruments on this album not only his signature mandolin but also electric guitars, violin, viola, cello, varying bass instruments, drums, piano, Wurlitzer, B-3, bouzouki and more. He is the sole musician, vocalist and songwriter on the album, and co-produced the project with engineer Gary Paczosa. This is the fifth solo album from Thile: his first was issued on Sugar Hill when he was 13 years old, after picking up the mandolin at the age of 5 and forming the Grammy-winning Nickel Creek band at the age of 8. Now aged 23, Thile is widely regarded as one of the finest mandolinists in the world, and has always enthusiastically pushed the limits of his craft. Here the opening track begins deceptively with trickling piano, but builds into an anguished reflection on young love. "Locking Doors" blends rock with shades of old-school jazz, violins and modern pop sensibilities. "The Believer" explores perceptions of faith, while "Empire Falls" is inspired by the Pulitzer prize-winning novel. The album's layered parts are divided by two mandolin solos, which Thile describes as "palette cleansers."
Top Customer Reviews
All songs are original and every instrument on the project is played by him. With drums, electric guitar, piano, banjo, fiddle and complex harmonies this is a seriously impressive array!
At first listen the collection sounds a little chaotic and you find yourself searching for a common thread to link it all together. The lyrics talk of lost love and also hint at his uncertainty over his Christian faith (which dominates his grand scale venture 'the blind leaving the blind' with current band 'punch brothers').
It's the vocals that provide the connection. Sincere, often dripping with emotion and demonstrative of wide range and tone.
There's a real variety of styles; from ballad (This is all real), instrumental (Jessamyns reel) and jazz/funk fusion (locking doors) to up-beat rock anthem (deceiver).
Once past the initial complexities, the music leaves a lasting impression and will have you reluctant to leave it out of your daily play list.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
I know that at first when a lot of Chris Thile fans listen to the CD, they might feel a sense of shock. There are parts where Chris just rocks out HARD and people have to stop and take a double take: "What? Is that the same guy from Nickel Creek?" I am aware that some fans get so disoriented by this that they give the album a total thumbs down. I find that unfortunate, presumptuous, and judgemental.
Allow the album to be an onion to you. Trust me, it is definitely worth peeling away the layers. I know at first it may seem like you have no idea what he's trying to do, but if you sit down, read the lyrics, and listen to the songs -- you'll find that Chris' talents really do manifest in ways that are fresh, new, and different than any other artist you know. Chris has always been about paying respect to other genres in exchange for the creation of something completely his own.
But I beg you. Before you go around saying this is the worst thing you've heard, give it a fair chance. The lyrics for each of these songs are incredible, full of depth, and startlingly profound. I cannot believe Chris learned how to play ALL those instruments by himself and was able to compose music with sounds so cohesive, creative, and mind-boggling.
Acquaint yourselves with his songs and get to know them. Chris worked very hard for this album and I know it means a lot to him to have fans appreciate his work and to let him know that even though it's not the kind of stuff that would ever hit mainstream, he's still got the talent and the guts.
That's what I love about all these songs on this CD. They are so brutally honest, so exposing, and so brave. He just poured his entire soul into this, and it really paid off.
Give it a listen. I promise you'll learn to love every bit of it.
Ok, some people think the songwriting on this album is sub-par...I am here as a musician to say that, although there are few "lightning fast" licks here, these arangements are amazing. Odd time signatures, unconventional keys, changes that most people could not dream up, much less play. No, these songs arent for the casual listener. You will not find any radio hits on here. You will only find a hint of his bluegrass chops here. What you will find is one of the best "indi-rock" albums in quite some time...
If you liked Nickel Creeks cover of Pavements "spit on a stranger" then give this a try. If you hated it, start looking for a new bluegrass idol because Chris has moved on...
I bought "Deceiver" at Barnes/Noble at the same time I bought a Merle Haggard box set ("Down Every Road"), so that might tell you a little of where I'm coming from on this. I adore the alleged classic songs of the masters, but I also appreciate the journeys they take along their careers.
"Deceiver" is one of the paths Chris Thile has chosen. Accept it for what it is. Don't assume that because you've bought and heard the previous Thile/Watkins/NC works, that this will be identical. In fact, if it were identical, it would be ripped for being the same stuff, and Thile would be ripped for lacking imagination.
Listen, this guy lives on a different planet than the rest of us. Don't assume that everything he does will be a extension of Bill Monroe or Ronnie McCoury or Sam Bush or David Grisman. He's above and beyond that calling.
Like a lot of the folks who have reviewed "Deceiver" here, I too had a little trouble making it through the CD the first few times. The first words I muttered were "experimental" and "self-indulgent." But so what. I muttered the same two words about Loretta Lynn's "Van Lear Rose" the first five times I heard that, too, and now, I've come to appreciate it as being reflective of who she is at this moment of her life.
Same with Thile. This is who he is now. Not the same guy he was at 16, and probably not the same guy he'll be at 37. And since those first few run-throughs of "Deceiver," I have heard the damn thing another 245,337 times (that approximate).
Is "Deceiver" experimental? Absolutely. But, by the same token, could any of the mind-warping solos that he plays on the NC treatments of traditional bluegrass pieces be considered experimental? Definitely.
He ain't your father's mandolinist. Or guitarist. Or bassist. Or vocalist. Etc., etc.
Don't be offended because Thile didn't slide his versions of "Molly and Tenbrooks" or "Uncle Pen" on this CD. But at the same time, don't think for a second that he's forgotten his bluegrass roots. He just chooses to extrapolate them onto other genres.
That's not a bad thing. It's what a lot of legendary artists have done through the milleniums.
Music is all about expressing who you are and what you're feeling. If you wanted Chris Thile to produce just another mandolin album (even as stunning as his are) or just another bluegrass album (even as innovative and introspective as NC has been), well ... he's been there and done that. And if you want more, there are plenty of bluegrass CDs by The Seldom Scene, New Grass Revival, Flatt and Scruggs, Rhonda Vincent and others filling the bargain bin at your local music store or online.
But to get down on Chris Thile for this? I don't get it.
This guy just does not play by the same rules, and he doesn't have to. But you can, if you like. Be happy there.
I'll listen to Chris Thile.
But Chris is a talent that wants to make his own Art and if you are along for the ride and willing to be stretched, you will love this album. If you are expecting simple, familiar entertainment, look elsewhere.
It helps to get the right frame of mind. This man grew up as a musical prodigy with a deep faith and was probably late in developing a social life and likely shocked by the rejection and jealousy he faced, both for his talent and his faith. This isn't a "message" album, but it is very honest about innocence intersecting with sexuality, talent seeking frontiers and faith meeting the real world.
The musical talent is everywhere. The album reminded me of the Beatles, The Rock band "Extreme" ( "Three Sides To Every Story" comes to mind ) and has some elements of Nickel Creek's "This Side"...... Chris Rocks. Chris shows some very complex vocal riffs as well as the mandolin varieties. Some of the ballads drag a little and let's face it, he's not Sinatra. But the songs are also about something. And if you are following this amazing young man's career, you won't want to miss this chapter.