Not All Who Wander Are Lost
Sugar Hill Records, 2001
REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 11/06/2001
I hate Chris Thile.
I mean, come on. The guy's not old enough to buy beer, and he plays like this? This is the latest effort from a member of bluegrass wunderkinder band Nickel Creek, and it's a doozy. Thile's playing is stylish, lyrical, precise, and elegant; he's a true master of the mandolin. He also has some of the strongest supporting players I've ever seen; Sean Watkins on guitar, Sara Watkins on fiddle, Bela Fleck on banjo, and Jerry Douglas on dobro is the kind of "backup band" that would make most bluegrass players -- not to mention fans -- fall over in a dead faint. And did I mention his producer is Alison Krauss?
So, in midst of all this glory, how does Not All Who Wander Are Lost sound? Pretty damned good, thanks. Thile calmly and elegantly turns out one of the strongest CDs I've heard this year. From "Song For A Young Queen" through "Riddles In The Dark" to "Laurie De' Tullins", this is simply a brilliant piece of acoustic traditional work. It's not all bluegrass, by any stretch of the imagination; Thile wanders off in flights of fantasy and genre with things like "Club G.R.O.S.S." with its lounge jazz saxophone and "Sinai To Canaan"'s almost New Age sounds. "You Deserve Flowers" is almost a straight contemporary country instrumental, and "Big Sam Thompson" has an Applachian or traditional feel to it, similar to Dolly Parton's recent work. Thile doesn't neglect his roots, though; straight-ahead bluegrass work like "Eureka!" and "Bridal Veil Falls" show he can handle the standard forms of the genre just fine, thank you.
In short, Not All Who Wander Are Lost is a great work. It cannot be recommended enough.