Year of the Album — #054
Chris Thile & Michael Daves – “Sleep With One Eye Open” (2011, Nonesuch)
If Chris Thile is doomed to be wrongly pigeonholed as the man who modernized bluegrass and then killed it, as many misguided bluegrass fans still deride him, he’ll always be able to point to Sleep With One Eye Open as the album where he played to the conventions of the genre. What’s all the better is that the album stands as a testament to just how amazing a phenom he truly is, as he and guitarist / vocalist Michael Daves take bluegrass back to its roots while maintaining a sense of glorious fun about the proceedings.
Recorded at Jack White’s Third Man Studios during a madcap three-day “live to tape” session, the album is at once the most invigorating and impressive album Thile has been a part of since leaving Nickel Creek. With the Punch Brothers he gets to dip his toes in the musical pool filled by Bela Fleck and his contemporaries, but on this album he takes on Bill Monroe and Del McCoury and proves he more than deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as such legends. At this point if there are still people out there saying Thile isn’t traditional enough for bluegrass, it’s time to kick them to the curb. The rest of us can enjoy this thoroughly fresh breath of air. At this point he’s proved there’s nothing left to prove for one of contemporary bluegrass’s pure originals.