Punch Brothers

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Punch Brothers
2008 Punch Brothers - credit Cassandra Jenkins SMALL for website.jpg
Background information
OriginBrooklyn, New York, United States
Genres
Years active2006–present
LabelsNonesuch
MembersChris Thile
Gabe Witcher
Noam Pikelny
Chris Eldridge
Paul Kowert
Past membersBryan Sutton
Greg Garrison
WebsitePunchbrothers.com

Punch Brothers is an American band consisting of Chris Thile (mandolin), Gabe Witcher (fiddle/violin), Noam Pikelny (banjo), Chris Eldridge (guitar), and Paul Kowert (bass). Their style has been described as "bluegrass instrumentation and spontaneity in the strictures of modern classical"[1] as well as "American country-classical chamber music".[2]

The band's 2018 album All Ashore was awarded the Grammy Award for Best Folk Album at the 61st Grammy Awards on February 10, 2019.[3]

Punch Brothers, NC Museum of Art, July 16, 2015. Photo by Julianne G. Macie

History[edit]

2006–2007: Beginnings[edit]

Thile formed the band in 2006 to record the album How to Grow a Woman from the Ground. In an interview with the Nashville City Paper, Thile described the formation of the band:

We got together one night just to drop a ton of money, drink too much wine, eat steaks, and commiserate about our failed relationships. We had gotten to play together a few days before and we had said that we needed to do something musical together. With our hearts smashed to pieces, it became more urgent — our lives had gone the same way for so long. I knew I wanted to have a band with Gabe [Witcher], but I didn’t know if it would be a rock ensemble, an ambitious acoustic classical thing or a bluegrass group. We played, and there was a serious, instantaneous connection. Then I knew I wanted to put together a bluegrass band — one with a lot of range, but aesthetically a bluegrass band.[4]

The band was initially known as The How to Grow a Band. In 2007, they officially changed their name, first to The Tensions Mountain Boys, before settling on Punch Brothers. The band's name comes from the critical line of an earworm jingle that is the centerpiece of Mark Twain's short story "A Literary Nightmare".[5] The chorus of the jingle consists of two lines, "Punch, brothers! punch with care! Punch in the presence of the passenjare," which are said to be the mantra of railroad conductors.

What they formed was a type of group that American Songwriter magazine calls "A 21st century version of the Bluegrass Boys."[6]

2007–2009: "The Blind Leaving the Blind" and Punch[edit]

Noam Pikelny (banjo), Chris Thile (mandolin), Greg Garrison (bass), and Chris Eldridge (guitar) at Wintergrass, 2008

On March 17, 2007, this group debuted the ambitious forty-minute suite, "The Blind Leaving the Blind" at Carnegie Hall. The piece was composed by Thile, who said he wrote it in part to deal with his divorce in 2003.

On February 13, 2008, the band set off on their first national tour as Punch Brothers. On February 26, they released Punch, their first album, on Nonesuch Records. The album features Thile's suite "The Blind Leaving the Blind", as well as other original songs.[7]

In March 2008, when asked about a follow-up album, Thile said "there will definitely be another album."[8] On November 8, 2008, the band announced on their website that they had parted ways with bass player Greg Garrison. Paul Kowert, who studied under Edgar Meyer at the Curtis Institute of Music, took Garrison's place as bass player.[9]

2010: Antifogmatic[edit]

Antifogmatic, Punch Brothers' second album, was released on June 15, 2010 and features both traditional bluegrass and newgrass styles on the ten-track listing. Though bassist Kowert had toured extensively with the band in support of Punch over the preceding two years, Antifogmatic is the first Punch Brothers album on which he appears.

2011: How to Grow A Band documentary[edit]

The band is also the focus of the documentary How to Grow a Band, directed by Mark Meatto. It was filmed over a two-year period and, according to its website, "explores the tensions between individual talents and group identity, art and commerce, youth and wisdom". The film premiered at the 42nd Nashville Film Festival in Nashville, Tennessee on April 15, 2011. The film also screened as part of the 38th Annual Telluride Bluegrass Festival in June 2011.

2012: Who's Feeling Young Now?[edit]

The band released its third album, Who's Feeling Young Now?, in February 2012. Shortly afterwards, they contributed the song 'Dark Days' to the soundtrack for 2012 blockbuster The Hunger Games. In November 2012 they released Ahoy!, the 5-track EP companion to Who's Feeling Young Now? The EP consists of five songs that were not featured on the full-length release.

2015: The Phosphorescent Blues and The Wireless[edit]

In November 2014, the band released the first single, entitled "I Blew It Off," from their then-untitled fourth album. In December 2014, the band announced that the new album, The Phosphorescent Blues, would be released on January 27, 2015, along with the immediate release of another new single, "Julep".[10] Julep was nominated for Best American Roots Song at the 2016 Grammy Awards.[11] The album reached the top 10 on the rock, folk, and bluegrass charts.[12] On November 20, 2015, Punch Brothers released a 5-track EP, The Wireless.

2018: All Ashore[edit]

On July 20, 2018, All Ashore was released as the band's fifth album. The album was self-produced and released on the Nonesuch Records label.[13] According to Thile, the album is "a meditation on committed relationships in the present day, particularly in light of the current unsettled political climate—certainly the most unsettled one that anyone in the band has ever experienced. We were hoping we could create a thing that would be convincing as a complete thought, sort of a nine-movement or a nine-song thought, even though it's rangy in terms of what it's talking about and in the characters doing the talking."[14]

All Ashore was awarded the Grammy Award for Best Folk Album at the 61st Grammy Awards on February 10, 2019.[3]

2022: Hell on Church Street[edit]

On September 28, 2021 Punch Brothers announced that their next studio album would be a re-imagining of Tony Rice's 1983 album Church Street Blues.[15] The album, titled Hell on Church Street, released on January 14, 2022.[16][17]

Rice's Church Street Blues was a solo folk reinterpretation of many classic songs, and the Punch Brothers said of their own reinterpretations "No record (or musician) has had a greater impact on us, and we felt compelled to cover it in its entirety, with the objective of interacting with it in the same spirit of respect-fueled adventure that Tony brought to each of its pre-existing songs.”[15] The songs were recorded in November 2020, just weeks before Rice's death at age 69. Punch Brothers guitarist Chris Eldridge was a student of Rice's.[18]

Band members[edit]

Current members[edit]

Former members[edit]

  • Bryan Sutton – guitar, vocals (2006–2007)
  • Greg Garrison – double bass, vocals (2006–2008)

Discography[edit]

Albums[edit]

Title Release date Label Peak chart positions[19]
US Grass US US Heat US Rock US Folk
Punch February 26, 2008 Nonesuch Records 1 10
Antifogmatic June 15, 2010 Nonesuch Records 2 128 1 39 2
Who's Feeling Young Now? February 14, 2012 Nonesuch Records 1 76 19 5
Ahoy! EP November 13, 2012 Nonesuch Records 1 144 42 7
The Phosphorescent Blues January 27, 2015 Nonesuch Records 1 37 9 4
The Wireless EP November 20, 2015 Nonesuch Records 1 34 9
All Ashore July 20, 2018 Nonesuch Records 1 48 8
Hell on Church Street January 14, 2022 Nonesuch Records
"—" denotes releases that did not chart

Music videos[edit]

Year Video Director
2013 "Movement and Location"[20] Danny Clinch
2018 "It's All Part of the Plan" Alex Chaloff

References[edit]

  1. ^ Paphides, Pete (January 25, 2008). "Chris Thile and his mandolin". The Times. London. Retrieved May 22, 2010.
  2. ^ Holden, Stephen (February 22, 2008). "Covers and Classical Moves From a Bluegrass Virtuoso". The New York Times.
  3. ^ a b "List of top winners at the Grammy Awards". AP NEWS. Associated Press. 2019-02-11. Retrieved 2019-02-12.
  4. ^ "Nickel Creek's Thile 'grows' a new band". Nashville City Paper. 2006-08-23. Archived from the original on 2006-08-26. Retrieved 2007-10-13.
  5. ^ "Punch Brothers: Punch". Amazon.com. Retrieved 2010-04-23.
  6. ^ "Punch Brothers: American Pickers". American Songwriter. Retrieved 31 May 2012.
  7. ^ "Nonesuch Records Signs Singer/Composer/Mandolinist Chris Thile and His New Band, Punch Brothers". All About Jazz. 2007-10-09. Archived from the original on 2007-12-25. Retrieved 2007-10-10.
  8. ^ "Now out of the Creek, Thile's packing Punch - The Boston Globe". Boston.com. 2008-04-05. Retrieved 2015-03-18.
  9. ^ "Punch Brothers". Punchbrothers.com. Archived from the original on 2018-04-17. Retrieved 2015-03-18.
  10. ^ "The Phosphorescent Blues – Pre-Order Now". Punchbrothers.com. 2014-12-04. Archived from the original on 2016-03-30. Retrieved 2015-03-18.
  11. ^ "2016 Grammy Awards Nominees Announced". The Boot. Retrieved 2017-04-06.
  12. ^ Mason, Anthony (2018-07-28). "Punch Brothers on bluegrass, collaboration and the band's "instant mind meld"". CBSNews.com. Retrieved 2018-07-30.
  13. ^ "Chris Thile Talks Strumming Through the Apocalypse With Punch Brothers". Billboard. Retrieved 2018-07-31.
  14. ^ "The Story Behind Punch Brothers' New Album, "All Ashore" - Nonesuch Records". Nonesuch Records Official Website. Retrieved 2018-07-20.
  15. ^ a b "Punch Brothers' 'Hell on Church Street' Due January 14 on Nonesuch; Reimagining of, Homage to Tony Rice's 'Church Street Blues' - Nonesuch Records". Nonesuch Records Official Website. Retrieved 2022-01-19.
  16. ^ Mazor, Barry (2022-01-18). "'Hell on Church Street' by the Punch Brothers Review: Spunky Reverence". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 2022-01-19.
  17. ^ Margaret Quamme, February 10, 2022, The Columbus Dispatch, Punch Brothers' setlist at the Southern to include 'thank you' to late bluegrass legend, Retrieved February 14, 2022, "... latest album by the Punch Brothers ... a tribute to one of the most famous bluegrass albums of all time...."
  18. ^ "Remembering Tony Rice: Béla Fleck, Richard Hoover, David Grisman, Chris Eldridge, and Bryn Davies Reflect on Rice's Life and Legacy". Acoustic Guitar. 2021-12-03. Retrieved 2022-01-19.
  19. ^ "Punch Brothers Chart History". Billboard. Retrieved 2018-07-31.
  20. ^ "CMT : Videos : Punch Brothers : Movement and Location". Country Music Television. Retrieved January 25, 2013.

External links[edit]