Chris Thile plays the mandolin. And honestly, when someone plays a mandolin you just assume they are nice people. The same thing happens with banjo. Assholes are just unable to pluck onto happy sounding strings. Edgar Meyer plays the bass. Probably known more for his Bluegrass work with people like Béla Fleck or the band Nickel Creek (also featuring Chris Thile). Both these dudes have probably built new shelving in their garage due to the amount of grammies they each have. And, if you’re still into the award thing, both are also MacArthur recipients which is more commonly called the “Genius Award”. That’s right. An award for being super smart and they both won it. Then there’s this Yo-Yo Ma guy. I think he plays the trumpet or something.
So, right off the bat if you throw this on in the background of your “chalet” you’ll look wicked smart. It’s a high-society honey trap. Put it on, add a little extra bass to that voice of yours, and you’ll make them cream right through their khaki pants and into the sweater tied around their waist.
Apart from this, I really do like this album. Having two guys that generally work with improvisation and bluegrass (mandolin and bass, though Ma has dipped his toes in the creek as well) playing songs that I generally hear from an organ twice the size of a house, is just fucking nice. It gives a lightness to Bach. That’s right. You heard me. A lightness to that plump-faced wig-wearing man that probably only laughed once in his life when he mistook contrapuntal modulation with a minor key. Real funny Bach. You’re a real comedian. The songs are much faster than I am used to hearing but this does not mean they were composed by Eddie Van Halen. They have heart, peace and clarity. Like song 14, aka Erbarn dich mein, O Herre Gott, BWV 721 (name slips right off the tongue doesn’t it), is one of those listens that just calm the waters of a soul in the way only classical can. Then song 9, aka Fugue No. 18 in E Minor BWV 548, aka Baby Take Off My Wig and Spank It, where around a minute 30 you wonder how any other instrument but a mandolin played by Chris Thile could perform this piece.
In the end, it’s three virtuosos playing Bach so it’s going to be good. What surprised me was a playfulness that doesn’t just come from instrumentation choice, but years spent with bluegrass and improvisation. My only fear is that this interpretation will become popular and become the standard heard instead of an experiment. Some organists dedicate their lives to play these songs and still can’t due to genetics. It’s a great listen, but it will never replace those serious faced renditions I’m used to. I guess I enjoy sour grapes and constipation too much.