CHRIS Thile is the Jimi Hendrix of the mandolin. Fast, fluid, passionate.
He goes where others stumble trying to follow.
Jaws regularly drop when he led out bluegrass trio Nickel Creek and the music exploded from those four pairs of strings.
Now fast forward to a music session in New York City where Thile was staying in the wake of a divorce.
He’d expected the trip to be a solitary one, but friends persuaded him to go along to a mid-week bluegrass jam.
He recalled: “It was just this cool vibe-y thing, nothing too out of the ordinary—until Michael started playing. Then I was just like, whoa, who is this guy?”
Michael is Michael Daves, Thile’s new partner in time, a duo who are turning the bluegrass world on its head.
Like Thile, Daves grew up playing bluegrass with his fiddle- and banjo-playing parents, but drifted towards jazz and the outer fringes of rock while at college.
He later settled in New York City nurturing a career as a jazz player, but found himself drawn back to bluegrass: “I didn’t expect for New York to be such a big part of that for me, but it proved fruitful. There was a lot of great music going on and there were these late night jam sessions like I’d played in during high school.
“New York is a challenging and inspiring place to be because you are rubbing elbows with great jazz musicians, rock musicians, artists, writers, everyone doing what they do so well. At the time I went there it felt like this niche had opened up for what I was ready to do musically, so I started playing bluegrass on my own.”
So when Chirs Thile turned up and tuned up, a musical fate was sealed. Said Daves: “After everybody else had stopped playing and things were dying down, we went off to a corner and ended up jamming for a couple of hours.
“I was surprised at how much Chris had to offer beyond his technical prowess, beyond the very clean presentation of Nickel Creek. He was really going for it.”
A couple of years later, while Nickel Creek was on a break, Thile and Daves joined together as a duo.
The result is one of the most exciting acoustic acts to grace a stage in a long, long time.
Chris Thile and Michael Daves are at The Greystones, Greystones Road, Sheffield, on Sunday, September 18. Tickets from www.wegottickets.com
The annual Off the Tracks Festival takes place this year between Friday, September 2 and Sunday, September 4 at Park Farm, Isley Walton, near Castle Donington, Derbyshire.
The line-up includes Peatbog Faeries, The Dhol Foundation, The Selecter, Martin Carthy and Dave Swarbrick, Saint Jude, John Otway and the Lancashire Hotpots
This is the 23rd annual festival which has established itself as a truly family-friendly event. Weekend tickets are £65 for adults and £32.50 for youths (12-16), including camping. Under-12s go free.
In total more than 30 artists will be performing from two stages. There will also be around 70 real ales, ciders and perries and a wide variety of food.
Festival spokesman John Atkin said: “We had a really great Spring Festival in May, with loads of fantastic responses and reviews. Now we can start to get really excited about the line-up we’ve put together for the summer festival.
“We believe Off The Tracks is now among the best-value and most-enjoyable festivals you can find.”
For full line up and to book tickets direct go to www.offthetracks.co.uk