Review: Chris Thile & Brad Mehldau – Chris Thile & Brad Mehldau (Nonesuch / Warner Music Canada)

While both Chris Thile and Brad Mehldau are acclaimed, respected artists in their own right – Thile performs with progressive bluegrass outfit the Punch Brothers, Mehldau is an innovative jazz pianist with a distinct, impressive body of work – this release marks the debut joint effort from the pair.

Boasting 11 songs that consist only of Thile on mandolin and vocals and Mehldau on piano and minimal vocal accompaniment otherwise, I wasn’t quite sure how well the sparse instrumentation would fill the virtually limitless space of the recording studio. It turns out that it fits rather well. It should go without saying that this project is all about the music for both Thile and Mehldau. Rather than each musician jockeying to be heard, there is a significant undercurrent of restraint running throughout the collection, yet the songs become subtly powerful when the mood calls for it.

Comprised of a collection of delightful originals (“Tallahassee Junction,” “The Old Shade Tree” and “Noise Machine”), the duo also deliver some tastefully done covers, including David Rawlings & Gillian Welch’s “Scarlet Town,” Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right,” Joni Mitchell’s “Marcie,” along with an instrumental version of Elliott Smith’s “Independence Day.”

Chris Thile & Brad Mehldau have given us an album that will prove to be the perfect soundtrack to those rainy spring days ahead.