Marie Hines Bio

Photo by Melissa Madison Fuller

Marie Hines

Supporting The Tide and the Sea

By Emily J Ramey

Written for Marie Hines

Marie Hines is a creator. She cooks dinner, she bakes cupcakes, she’s an avid DIY-er, and true to her Southern charm, she’s not afraid to get down in the dirt if it means cultivating something colorful and fragrant. Drawing inspiration from nature, The Tide and the Sea boasts music that mimics the fine lightness of a summer wind and the rolling current of a cool autumn stream. By broadening her scope and expanding her thematic obsessions, Marie has fallen right into place between Ingrid Michaelson and Sara Bareilles, an artist as vibrant and smart as she is talented.

Marie nurtured her musical abilities early while growing up in small-town South Carolina: “I started taking classical piano when I was about six. Music was kind of something I developed on my own. I started writing at the age of twelve.” And something struck with a chord with Marie, who moved to Nashville in 2005. “I came to ‘Music City’ to surround myself with people that were better than me. I knew I needed that constant challenge in order to become a greater musician.” Marie found inspiration among fellow songwriters as well as larger acts like Norah Jones and Coldplay, all the while developing her own class of bright, satiny melodies.

Those familiar with Marie’s debut, Worth the Fight, or her follow-up EPs, The Living Room Sessions and HeartCrash, will recognize her characteristic feminine grace, billowing piano refrains, and incandescent strings, but there’s something new and exciting in this collection of love songs. On The Tide and the Sea, Marie’s brush strokes are broader, more confident. Like a bright-eyed bride lifting her gauzy veil for the first time, letting the sun dazzle her and the wind brush her skin, the young singer/songwriter is stepping out and making strides.

“The title comes from the idea of love as a push-and-pull; it’s a tug-of-war type thing; it’s a dance. The tide rises and falls back into the sea, but it always falls back into the sea. Love is not easy, but when you’ve found that one right person, it is constant,” says Marie. “I guess that is maybe how I experience love. It’s comforting and protective, and these songs have that theme in common.”

The Tide and the Sea begins briskly, a crisp breeze fluttering through spring grass, playful and steady. “My Love Will Never Fail You,” the expansive, glittering single, makes confident declarations on the origins of love with lyrics like, “I don’t believe in chance. I think it’s the choice we make, and I choose you for the rest of my days,” its melody expanding into broad, undulating layers of a soaring orchestral spectrum. “In My Arms,” co-written with fellow Nashville songwriter Justin Halpin, is a richly textured, sanguine tune with a spirited rhythm that reminds Marie, “Yes, I’ve had my heart broken, but it’s all washed away when you have this one person.”

The golden, ebullient “Always Been You,” another Justin Halpin co-write, boasts the title lyric – “You be the tide; I’ll be the sea. The rise or fall brings you home to me, brings you home to me. It’s always been you, love.” – and acts as the magnetic, whimsical cornerstone of Marie’s rosy ballads. “Forever Falling for You,” co-written with Justin Tam of Nashville folk band Humming House, is a glowing, ethereal track with lyrics warm and hopeful: “We’ll build a house someday; we’ll build a home in the meantime.” And the lilting, dramatic “Forever Mine,” co-written with Justin Halpin and featuring background vocals by Marie’s new fiancé Ben Ringel of Nashville blues band The Delta Saints, swells and diminishes in arresting, elegant strokes, closing the album with an exultant, richly resonant ballad of halcyon love, repeating the chorus: “Oh my love, my life, always you and I, steady as we rise; be forever mine.”

Marie’s music has seen commercial and critical success with a feature in WalMart’s Valentine’s Day in-store promotional campaign in 2010 and 2011 and the top prizes in the Intel Superstars Competition, the Intel Video Superstars Competition, and the Avon Songwriting Competition. Following the release of Worth the Fight, Marie embarked on a national tour, playing venues like LA’s famous Hotel Café, Nashville’s Bluebird Café, New York’s The Living Room, and cafés, house concerts, and coffeeshops all along the way. In 2012, she was invited to play Toronto’s NXNE Festival.

Marie’s songs have provided background music for hundreds of wedding videos; MTV, iTunes, Hallmark, Delta Airlines, Spotify, and Forever 21 have showcased tracks in various capacities; and the music video for “Perfect Kiss” was featured on CMT Pure.

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The Delta Saints Bio

Supporting Death Letter Jubilee

By Emily J Ramey

Written for The Delta Saints

Photo by Melissa Madison Fuller

The Delta Saints

The Delta Saints are not what they say they are. Delta? Absolutely. But saints? One might call them “cautionary tales” long before the term “saints” ever came to mind; however, there is something devout about their bayou rock, a dirty, distinct sound they’ve zealously refined on their debut full-length, Death Letter Jubilee. Alternating between raucous melodies and slow-burning odes to the devil in his many forms, Ben Ringel (vocals/dobro), Dylan Fitch (guitar), David Supica (bass), and Ben Azzi (drums) explore themes of difficult love, the wanderer’s high road, and the moral low road using their unconscious fascination with the classical elements – earth, air, fire, and water – as a natural vehicle for their briny narratives.

With Death Letter Jubilee, The Delta Saints are blooming into life not as a pretty flower might, but perhaps a mushroom explosion from an atomic bomb or a feral thunderhead. After two self-released and well received EPs, Pray On and A Bird Called Angola, fans demanded a full length and happily burst through the band’s Kickstarter goal to get it. “That is a feeling like no other,” Ben Ringel claims. “It’s awesome and also humbling. And it’s good pressure on us to succeed. It’s the kind of pressure we were able to harness and strive off of.”

The members of The Delta Saints each moved to Nashville for college in 2007. They first found common ground as old-world-loving, good-bourbon-swilling musicians and began playing together around town before they had any plans to record. As the searing harmonica and howling vocals of their live show began garnering notoriety in a city known well for its indifference to anything less than worthwhile, The Saints rode their roots rock wave right into the studio.

On the heels of 2010’s A Bird Called Angola, the band toured tirelessly, playing more than 150 shows a year, including a slot at Arkansas’ Wakarusa Festival and two summers headlining in Europe during which they performed on the long-running, renowned German TV show Rockpalast. Road tested and weather worn, The Delta Saints have seen wholly organic growth, working diligently in the name of a roots revival alongside fellow up and comers Alabama Shakes and Gary Clark Jr., becoming The Black Keys of a bygone era, all the while harnessing the brackish delta current into something gripping and bold.

“Liar” opens Death Letter Jubilee with a swaggering bass line and a blazing guitar riff, the “Come on!” refrain in the chorus echoing like a command, beckoning listeners to settle in for the long haul. “’Chicago’ is just written about the first time I was ever in Chicago,” Ringel explains. “We were there for 18 hours, and there was a blizzard, so it was snow and wind and bitter cold. Right before bed, I looked out this big third story window, and all I could see was amber light from the streetlights and snow, and for some reason that image just stuck.” The song itself generates a heat fit to ward off that blizzard weather, featuring a rare but incendiary brass section and an immovable beat that marks the tune as an early highlight.

“Death Letter Jubilee” is by far the most magnetic track on the album. There’s something eerie about its cacophonous Orleans-inspired chorus, the warm buzz of harmonica, the tinny trumpet whine, and the way one can’t help but be swept away by the utterly irreverent revelry. “I love songs where sonically you get one emotion from it, and then you look at the lyrics and it’s not at all what you expected,” Ringel says of the song’s musical inspiration. “And everybody has certain emotions that they’re not proud of. The idea that you can be glad about somebody’s ultimate demise… it’s such a negative thing, but everybody feels something a little like that.”

“Jezebel” melts down into a sweltering lo-fi blues number, its minimal instrumentation muddled and viscous as though the song was written on an old front porch when it was just too damn hot to do anything but sing. And like water thrown over flames, the crackling and steaming “Out to Sea” cools the album with its haunting refrain: “Oh, oh, river run, straight out from the hurt that seems to pour from me, and oh, oh, river speak, just haulin’ ass down the Calabash, just headed out to sea.”

“It was a new direction for us on a lot of different fronts,” Ringel admits of the tune. “It’s quiet and it’s sweet and it’s sad. It explores the idea of that cheesy, sappy movie line, ‘I can’t live without you,’ but this is more like, if you’re going to say it, what does that really mean?”

“Sing to Me” starts out sluggishly, forlornly, a rusted locomotive gathering speed with lyrics like, “I come to you now with blood on my hands, the law on my tail, and my conscience be damned, my sweet little babe, my sweet honeybee,” before running off the rails completely, harmonica flashing, drums galloping. And “River,” a second listen gem, is a brief interlude deep into the album in which an ethereal female gospel choir seems to sway and billow in the breeze on balmy Sunday afternoon.

“The main thing we wanted for Death Letter Jubilee was for it to have movement,” Ringel states. “We wanted people to listen and have an emotional journey similar to the one we had while making it.” That journey has left them energized and confident about the future, while still enjoying each stop along the road: “We want to grow, and maybe even grow faster, but we understand that it’s all in due time. We want to fully realize the weight of our experiences, and be able to savor them too.”

The Delta Saints’ new album will be available January 2013. For more information about The Saints and Death Letter Jubilee, go to http://www.thedeltasaints.com.

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Warren Brothers Article

Warren Brothers

“The Search for the Perfect Song”

By Emily J Ramey

Written for BMI: MusicWorld

Brett and Brad Warren always write their songs together, and as the Nashville songwriting duo The Warren Brothers, their industrious pens have been working for the likes of Martina McBride, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, and Dierks Bentley, among an impressive, steady growing list of others.

“Because we’re brothers, we have a built-in chemistry,” Brett explains. “We’re also brutally honest with each other. It can be refreshing and also taxing to write with us, but it will not be boring.”

The Brothers’ writing process seems about as diverse as their list of co-writers themselves: “We might go have lunch with Martina, and something in conversation will hit us, and we’ll write a song about that. Or Tim will call me up with an idea, and I’ll head over to his house, and we’ll write it. Or we’ll just start messing around on a guitar and try to think of stuff. There’s really no set way.”

Despite the Brothers current savvy, they worked hard to hit their stride. Early in their now 15-year career, Brad and Brett performed as artists, releasing three albums in six years, and served as judges on CMT’s Nashville Star for a time. Since then, they’ve found their niche as wholly devoted songwriters and have hurled themselves into the arena without hesitation.

“As regular artists, we were way too diverse,” Brett clarifies. “As songwriters, [that diversity] has been a blessing. We have a song on Hinder’s record and Toby Keith’s, we have four songs on Tim McGraw’s new album, and we’re writing with Orianthi this week. We just had a song cut by Lynyrd Skynyrd even, so we’re all over the map, and it is so much fun. We’ve written with Chris Daughtry and Ne-yo and people that are so different, it’s not even funny.”

The Warren Brothers’ lively schedule is due in part to their high demand as great writers but also probably as much to their enthusiasm and passion for finding the perfect song. They write with purpose and zeal for the music above all else.

“The best moments in my career have been the ones where I realized we were writing not for the money, not for an award; it was all about the song.”

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Marie Hines Bio

Supporting HeartCrash

By Emily J Ramey

Written for Marie Hines

Marie Hines

Marie Hines is a creator. She cooks dinner, she bakes cupcakes, she’s an avid DIY-er, and true to her Southern charm, she’s not afraid to get down in the dirt if it means cultivating something colorful and fragrant. Drawing inspiration from nature, HeartCrash boasts music that mimics the fine lightness of a summer breeze and the rolling current of a cool autumn stream. By broadening her scope and expanding her thematic obsessions, Marie has fallen right into place between Ingrid Michaelson and Sara Bareilles, an artist as spirited and smart as she is talented.

Those familiar with Marie’s debut, Worth the Fight, or her live follow-up EP, The Living Room Sessions, will recognize her characteristic feminine grace, billowing piano melodies, and incandescent strings, but there’s something new and exciting in this collection of songs. On HeartCrash, Marie’s brush strokes are broader, more confident. Like a bright-eyed bride lifting her gauzy veil for the first time, letting the sun dazzle her and the wind brush her skin, the young Nashville singer/songwriter is stepping out and making strides. “With HeartCrash, I wanted to do something that wasn’t safe. I wanted genuine and natural and raw. These songs embody where I am now, I think.”

“Hammer,” written from the perspective of a character in a book, opens the album with the leaden lines, “You never think your lover’s words could kill you, and you can’t foresee the blow that is your last,” and continues to unfold into an rolling instrumental landscape that explores the windswept valleys of slighted love. The unshakable title track was a new experience for Marie; “it didn’t come out of love or lack of love; it came out of anger,” she claims. A song about “a collision of two souls, the realization of clashing opinions and irreconcilable differences,” “HeartCrash” stomps out a driving beat, sullying forth with words like “I won’t stay, stay around for you to take, take me down, down, down.”

“Mending” is far and away the most complex song on HeartCrash, piano rivulets spilling into swirling ocean depths, dissonant strings surging and eddying into a roaring cascade. “The song has a steady 4/4 rhythm, then a 3/4 rhythm enters in the bridge. The different rhythms layer together perfectly,” Marie reveals, “and to me, it feels like two people falling in love.” The single “Perfect Kiss” is a playful acoustic refrain, silvery and gleaming in its idyllic innocence. “It’s a very personal song,” she says. “It’s a snapshot of the moment I realized I was blissfully happy in my relationship, and that I had found the person I want to be with for the rest of my life.” And “Poison in the Well” is a potent, pleading struggle to let go of the past, an emotion that elicits the strongest vocals on the record.

Marie’s debut album saw critical success with a feature in WalMart’s Valentine’s Day in-store promotional campaign in 2010 and 2011 and the top prize in both the Intel Superstars Competition and the Avon Songwriting Competition. Following the release of Worth the Fight, Marie embarked on a national tour, playing venues like LA’s famous Hotel Café on the West Coast, Nashville’s Bluebird Café, New York’s The Living Room on the East Coast, and cafés, house concerts, and coffeeshops all along the way.

More recently, Marie’s songs have provided background music for dozens of wedding videos, iTunes, Hallmark, Delta Airlines, Spotify, and Forever 21 have showcased tracks in various capacities, and the “Perfect Kiss” music video is in regular rotation on CMT Pure.

Marie Hines’ new release is available on February 28, 2012. For more information about Marie and HeartCrash, go to http://www.mariehines.com.

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Merry Ellen Kirk Bio

Supporting Firefly Garden

By Emily J Ramey

Written for Merry Ellen Kirk

Merry Ellen Kirk

Merry Ellen Kirk is a poet. Perhaps “songwriter” is a more commonly used term, but it’s also too commonplace for Merry Ellen’s glittering narratives, songs that spring up wildly from her subconscious and bloom into vibrant, lilting melodies. Her sparkling piano refrains sweep and spill into fresh, sweet rivulets of notes; her lyrics weave bright, halcyon tales of dream sequences, the light and dark polarities of the human experience, and beauty in its many forms. “I write about light and dark a lot… good and evil, dreams and reality, the darker and lighter parts of the human soul,” she explains.

Despite the undeniable tension in her thematic obsessions, Merry Ellen Kirk explores her dichotomies with grace. She writes songs with the cool effortlessness of youth, sings with the jaunty simplicity and breezy flair of a practiced performer, and plays with fleet fingers and subtle polish. In cultivating her own sound, Merry Ellen has employed a few key elements from her predecessors: the classical prowess of Tori Amos, the natural poise of Sarah McLachlan, the quiet pensiveness of A Fine Frenzy, and the bold whimsy of Regina Spektor.

Growing up a missionaries’ daughter in Mongolia has had its effect on Merry Ellen’s music, creating a refreshingly broad perspective from so young a person. “I think it mostly comes out in my approach to life. I feel like more of my songs are about the world and making the world a better place. My music is about seeing the world and being better for it.”

Of her unconventional childhood musical inclinations Merry Ellen reveals, “In Mongolia, they don’t have pianos, but I knew it was always something that I wanted to do – play piano. So when we moved back, I started taking lessons.” They were the tiny seeds of something greater, a glowing catalyst dawning on Merry Ellen’s path. “It was definitely a huge risk to just put myself out there and start doing this full time when I was seventeen. I had only written a couple of songs, but I knew that it was what I wanted to do.”

A true Nashville singer/songwriter, Merry Ellen works best under pressure, dividing her artistic talents among multiple projects – like serving as half of burgeoning folk duo The Shakespeares and developing a pop venture with fellow songwriter Rachel Pearl – all the while tending her own flowering repertoire. “I’m inspired by other artists, and sometimes things in nature, too, because God’s the artist there. I write songs from those moments.”

On her sophomore album, Firefly Garden, 21-year-old Merry Ellen spins a gossamer web of silvery tunes that glints and glistens with morning dew and lightly stroked piano keys. “Every week for ten weeks I recorded a song, and it was really therapeutic for me. It was freeing,” she says. “I think that’s what the album is about: all this crazy stuff is happening around you, but it’s important to find your inspiration and your beautiful place in life.”

The record, produced by Shakespeares counterpart Aaron Krause, is an enchanted glimpse into Merry Ellen’s sun-dappled mind, a veritable Eden of lush emerald canopies and richly tinted florets in which her music becomes the soundtrack to a verdant dream like delicate chimes floating on the billows of perfumed zephyrs. Among the high points of Firefly Garden lie the colorful, saccharine lyrics of “Candy,” which are a cleverly draped disguise for a faintly melancholy word on chimeras and the hope and sorrow they arouse; the muted, jazzy, rhythmic tune “Do You?” that channels a Pieces-of-You-era Jewel or even a dusky Corinne Bailey Rae; the exquisite “Masquerade,” an intricate, tortured tribute to Romeo and Juliet that features a rolling, minor piano and a heavy, fragile despair; and “Clair de Lune,” a lovely, diaphanous interpretation of Debussy’s famous melody complete with Merry Ellen’s own lyrics, that swells and ebbs like salty tides breaking lazily on gleaming white sand, a performance both deeply felt and lavishly played.

“I feel like everything that happens in your life kind of goes into your songs. It’s something that becomes part of your music. Who you are is your music.” Becoming so helplessly entwined with one’s music is a silent commitment to see the world through different eyes, an unalterable promise to commit one’s life to the glorious immortal verse. That poetry is what sight would be to the blind, speech to the dumb, walking to the crippled, and life to the condemned, but Merry Ellen Kirk sees, speaks, walks, lives, and she has poetry.

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Tin Pan South Review

Tin Pan South

“The Problem with Tin Pan South”

By Emily J Ramey

Click Here to See the Published Version on American Music Channel

I wrote once long ago that songwriters seem like pensive people. Not people who separate themselves from the rest of us, but rather people who understand the world a little better than we do, or at least can express their perceptions of it in more profound ways, and therefore relate differently to it.

Songwriters, good ones that is, have an uncanny ability to seek out our universally human fears and desires and articulate them in a manner to which we can not only connect, but feel as if those were the words we would have chosen ourselves, had we but had a far more expressive vocabulary. When we lack the capacity to convey our true hearts, we often find the words in songs. Words set to music reach their audience on a divine level, a plane on which we feel more ardently and openly. I believe it is the power to elevate our thoughts that generates such a passion for music in all of us alike.

NSAI’s Tin Pan South is Music City’s way of celebrating our songwriters. Named for the infamous region of lower Manhattan that boasted great numbers of songwriters and publishers each banging out tunes on cacophonous pianos (creating a sound like clanging tin pans together… or so the story goes) and an early 20th century era in which songwriters went to work in suits in an effort to convince the rest of the world of the legitimacy of their occupation, Tin Pan South’s primary purpose is to drag the hitmakers, composers, writers, lyricists, etc. out from their offices and homes and into the spotlight… if only for a week. Each year, 8-10 venues host two shows a night for five nights. Each show highlights 3-5 artists. Without actually doing the math, I think it’s safe to say that Nashville is positively crawling with this sort of backstage talent.

The problem with Tin Pan South though is that you have to choose. And whether you’re going for sound or location, artist or favorite hit, the opportunity cost is great. Of the 88 shows and hundreds of brilliant musicians to choose from, one can really only see 10 of those shows, and that’s working at it. I made it to five of my ten possible and enjoyed every minute, but there are always stand outs, and for me, there were two.

Station Inn

The Station Inn is the perfect sort of venue for nights like these. Tin Pan South celebrates the songwriters of this town by stripping down the show, by tossing them on badly lit stages and in dingy, low-ceilinged old places, by letting talent speak for itself.

I had no idea what to expect from a late Thursday show with Marshall Chapman, Phil Lee, Meaghan Owens, and RB Morris, but I certainly didn’t anticipate the grizzly, organic thing it became. Three well-seasoned musicians and one up-and-comer make for one hell of a show.

Highlights included Chapman’s groovy guitar work, Lee’s bluesy searing harmonica riffs (and string of dirty lines throughout), Owens’ rosy, girlish melodies (notably a beautiful French refrain), and Morris’ understated humor and blustery vocals. Chapman read a passage from her recently published book, they all chatted and joked and told stories and the audience, well, we just got to be in on it.

Listening Room Cafe

The Listening Room’s early show began long before the sun went down on Saturday, but there are reasons to come indoors early on a perfect spring evening. The gleaming, folksy vocals of the players at the corner cafe, the resonant acoustics of four musicians: Gordon Kennedy, Wayne Kirkpatrick, Phil Madeira, and Cindy Morgan Brouwer.

Kirkpatrick with his murky bayou rhythms, Madeira and his complex guitar instrumentation and wide-ranging repertoire, Kennedy’s effortless falsetto and warm melodies, and Brouwer with her silvery, gospel-tinged piano tunes and casual charm together on stage made for an evening of pleasant and easy listening.

On the whole, the Tin Pan South Songwriters Festival is unpretentious and underhyped. It’s such a critically important aspect of what makes Nashville Music City, and we need not take it for granted. Living in Nashville where creativity aptitude is concentrated and abundant, it’s easy to forget how truly rare sheer talent is in the rest of the music world. Here, our songwriters have one short week in the spotlight, and it is our job to turn our faces to their light and let them shine upon us.

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Punch Brothers Review

“Punch Brothers Give Nashville the Old One-Two”

By Emily J Ramey

Click Here to See the Published Version on American Music Channel

makin' it look easy

As of Tuesday night, I have seen mandolinist Chris Thile play six times – once as part of newgrass trio Nickel Creek, once as a solo act, and four times with his most recent endeavor, Punch Brothers. At this point, I consider myself pretty much an authority on the guy; I know a lot of things about him.

I know that he was eight years old when Nickel Creek formed. I know that he has five solo albums to his name and dozens of appearances on other artists’ works. I know that he likes covering his favorite bands’ tunes, especially those that might seem like unorthodox choices for bluegrass instruments (Wilco, Pavement, Elliott Smith, and Weezer are all classic examples). He’s been called a virtuoso and a prodigy and rightfully so with over two decades of experience composing and performing despite being just days from his 30th birthday. But of all the things I’ve learned about Chris Thile, there is one that stands out as steadfast personal experience: I am never bored while watching him play.

With all that said, Thile’s Punch Brothers is one of his most intriguing projects. The quintet’s 2010 release Antifogmatic had critics at a loss for words… with regard to its pure, undiluted virtuosity, yes, but also with regard to simply what genre in which to categorize it. The album, and much of Thile’s life’s work for that matter, is a refreshing and effortless blend of classical and folk and bluegrass, threaded with strains of country and pop – a rare hybrid, delicately plucked and expertly tuned. And Thile’s fellow musicians – Gabe Witcher (violin), Chris Eldridge (guitar), Paul Kowert (bass), and Noam Pikelny (banjo) – are just as dexterous and just as droll. Together, the Punch Brothers form a masterful group, delightfully wry though for all their panache.

Punch Brothers have built up some clout in Music City too, because their Tuesday night show at Mercy Lounge sold out easily, a rarity in this town. And even more surprisingly, the crowd was packing in and buzzing with excitement, fighting for the last good spots in the crowd, more than 30 minutes before show time. Energy was expanding, billowing through the audience, becoming palpable, and suspending itself over our heads. And then, without ceremony or grandeur, the Brothers took to the stage.

master o' mandolin

They jumped right in, without words, opening the show with the first two tunes from Antifogmatic, “You Are” and “Don’t Need No,” as well as fan favorite, “Heart in a Cage” by The Strokes, already settling into a casual groove, easing into loose harmonies and the group’s characteristically tight dynamics. Thile and company were clearly responding to the room’s enthusiasm; although their faces remained poised, their eyes and fingers were alight with the verve whipping through the throng. The quintet continued with the opener from 2008’s Punch, “Punch Bowl,” before blazing through the snarky, “relationship-centric” tune “Next to the Trash.”

A cover of Josh Ritter’s “Annabel Lee” slowed the pace of the show, the Punch Brothers’ strings echoing quiet, evocative refrains for the first time over the course of the evening and following up with the delicate, swelling Antifogmatic single “Alex.” At this point, each of the musicians was consumed with the music, independently teetering and reeling to the rhythm of the melody like blades of grass wavering in a summer breeze.

With passions running high, Punch Brothers performed the 1st part of their “The Blind Leaving the Blind,” an ambitious forty-minute suite in four movements that toys with dissonance and layers complexities, incorporating countless melodic intricacies perceptible only by the most astute ear – a true masterpiece, showcasing each of the members’ individual skill while maintaining the fluidity of an opus.

From there, the show was wild and unrestrained, intensifying, gathering speed, as though musically, we were rolling down a mountain to the end of the show. Continuing with a killer cover of The Beatles’ “Paperback Writer,” a beautiful, new tune (which Thile promised would be on the album they’ll begin working on over the summer) called “Full and Empty Hours,” and an old pick “Watch’at Breakdown,” from Thile’s 2006 album How to Grow a Woman from the Ground, Punch Brothers had the crowd back in riotous good spirits. Answering the crowd’s frenzied cheers, the group played their rollicking “Rye Whiskey” and a scorching rendition of Gillian Welch’s “Wayside (Back in Time)” to wrap up the set.

While applauding and roaring for more, I wondered, “Gosh, can they be any more amazing?” And as if in answer to my very thoughts, Thile mounted the stage alone… to play JS Bach’s “Sonata #1 in G Minor” in double time. Yes, double time. It was one of those unparalleled moments in music when one’s mouth drops open with genuine awe, in pure astonishment of even being in the same room with such raw genius. Then, as though lifting a spell, the rest of the Punch Brothers joined Thile onstage to finish the night with a blistering cover of Welsh punk band Mclusky’s “Icarus Smicarus.”

Convincing rumors spread excitedly after the show that Béla Fleck and Jerry Douglas, old friends of Thile’s, were in attendance, blending into the crowd impressively for two bluegrass gods among droves of bluegrass fans. All the elements for a regular old front porch jam session were present that night at Mercy Lounge… with just one gaping hole – odds are a thousand to one that the musicians available for the rocking chair symposium could possibly be as talented or as in sync as the Punch Brothers themselves.

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