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Album Review

Nickel Creek — the group and the individual members — have become something of a cottage industry, releasing multiple albums in multiple styles. Chris Thile's latest — Deceiver — is something of a surprise because his previous solo releases have concentrated on his hotshot mandolin picking. Now, he follows in the musical footsteps of Nickel Creek's last album, This Side, a half-experimental project that qualified as exceptionally innovative bluegrass. The approach, combining personal songwriting with studio techniques (think mid-'60s Beatles with a bluegrass background), jumps the hurdle that keeps most bluegrass bands — traditional and progressive — sounding pretty much like the bands that have come before them. Thile's Deceiver is even more experimental than This Side, as though he's been listening to the Bad Livers along with the Beatles. While the impulse is an enticing one, and while the musical results are often intriguing, the project seems more like a collage of fragments than an artistic whole. The album kicks off with what sounds like a baldly confessional ballad about falling in love with an underage girl. "The Wrong Idea" is, musically speaking, one of the best pieces on the album, though the lyric is a bit embarrassing. "On Ice" is another love song that starts strong, but it begins to meander at the two-minute mark. Here and at other places on Deceiver, Thile adds experimental odds and ends that don't really fit with the song. He may return to the same melodic theme at the song's end, but it's a little like calling anything you put between two pieces of bread a sandwich. Deceiver also shifts radically from song to song, jumping from quiet instrumentals like "Waltz for Dewayne Pomeroy" to alternative rock like "Empire Falls." Perhaps the project would've benefited from a tighter production, something to bring Thile's ideas to full fruition. Still, fans of Nickel Creek's last album will appreciate Deceiver's progressive strains, and prefer an imperfect product over yet another predictable bluegrass album. ~ Ronnie D. Lankford Jr., Rovi


Born: February 20, 1981 in Oceanside, CA

Genre: Country

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

A virtuoso mandolin player, singer, composer, bandleader, and radio personality, Chris Thile is one of the leading lights of progressive bluegrass. Thile has been at the forefront of bluegrass, creative folk, and roots music since debuting in the mid-'90s. In addition to his work as a solo artist, he is a co-founding member of the Grammy-winning outfit Nickel Creek. He also hosts NPR's A Prairie Home Companion, which he officially took over from longtime host Garrison Keillor in 2016. Born in Oceanside,...
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Deceiver, Chris Thile
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