Chris Thile

Thile, mandolinist for neo-traditional bluegrass band Nickel Creek, has been on my car CD player with his third solo release for two weeks. His compositional abilities here match his superb musicianship; both extend beyond bluegrass. Like David Grisman, Thile will take the mandolin anywhere—including jazz, represented here with the exquisite “Club G.R.O.S.S.,” featuring Jeff Coffin on tenor sax. The ensemble playing, with Jerry Douglas, Bela Fleck, Edgar Meyer and Stuart Duncan as the mainstays, is wonderful. On such tunes as “Raining at Sunset” and the 11-minute two-part “Sinai to Canaan,” the musical twists and polyphonic weavings thrill. The latter becomes the spiritual and musical center of the disc, with Thile et al. evoking pain and longing, while resolving it all in exultation in the style of a classical tone-poem. The next great mandolin player and composer in American acoustic music.