Author: Varner, Mark

Punch Brothers

Dear friends,

Happy Monday morning. I’m giving today’s Welcome over to my boy Marty. I’m looking forward to seeing the Punch Brothers show with him this coming Thursday in San Francisco. I’m also happy to mention that he will be performing with Billy and Sarah, and Jim Mintun at Phil’s Fish Market this Wednesday. Would love to see you down there for cioppino and bluegrass.

Review: The Punch Brothers – Who’s Feeling Young Now
By Marty Varner

On February 14th the Punch Brothers’ album, “Who’s Feeling Young Now?” came out and did not disappoint in any way, shape, or form. Even though it varies from their last album, Anitfogmatic, it still has arrangements that any musician can respect and admire. Chris Thile’s musicianship and brilliant ideas are such that they can only be executed with such great musicians as Gabe Witcher, Noam Pikelny, Chris Eldridge, and Paul Kowert. The complex original tunes vary from more of a jazz feel to a minory melody that gives you a jaw dropping expression, wondering how it can possibly be done by any mortal man. Even though it has fewer tracks than their last album, it seems to me it is a more full album that does not leave any crevice of the musical spectrum left out.

The 2nd track on the album “This Girl” has a cheerful jazzy feel with a brilliant melody and lyrical subtlety. The starts and stops in the song highlight Noam in a very special way along with Thile’s voice, which could easily be the pleasant surprise of the album. His pitch and his pristine falsetto make his voice able to carry the complex melodies that his brilliant mind can make on a whim. The electric guitar background halfway through the song also gives it a 3rd dimension that couldn’t have been done without it.

The title track of the album, “ Who’s Feeling Young Now” seems to be inspired by the group Radiohead, which is one of Chris’s greatest inspirations for his work in Punch Brothers. The guitar and mandolin tandem for the intro along with the banjo doing a roll over it introduces the song in a great way to get to the powerful Radioheadesque lyrics. One line from the last verse of the song is, “She wasn’t perfect, nobody’s perfect, grey hair ain’t a crown, wisdom.” This lyric is sung with a quiet backround with only the guitar holding the complex rhythm that Thile prides himself on executing with ease. Rarely the title track is the best song on the CD because of a diamond in the rough, but on this album there are not too many songs better.

When the Punch Brothers played on Leno a couple weeks ago they played the 10th track on their album, “New York City.” Even though it is not my favorite song nor is it the closest to resembling bluegrass, I have a hunch it can be popular among the masses like “The Cave” by Mumford and suns. It has great banjo and a good groove made by the bass along with very clever yet straight forward lyrics that can get into the heads of the masses if given the right opportunity.

I believe the greatest arrangement of any song on the album is “Don’t Get Married Without Me.” It is another Chris Thile original and the last track on the CD. The banjo and fiddle have an incredible lick throughout the song along with a grooving rhythm made by the mandolin chop. The backing vocals are also superb and add to the song a great deal. It has also has great tension and release throughout the song, and is in my opinion, the best song on the new Punch Brothers project.

The album is still decently new, coming out on February 14th, and is possibly the highlight of the bluegrass year for me. I will also thoroughly enjoy seeing them at The Filmore on March 8th and praise everything thing they create and execute with flawlessness that only these incredible minds and musicians are able to do.

Posted:  3/5/2012

Copyright © 2002 California Bluegrass Association. All rights reserved.
Comments? Questions? Please email