Noam Plays Kenny Baker Plays Bill Monroe; Thile Bach on Vinyl

Hi folks,

If you happen to be on Pickles' email list you may have already heard the "news that will surely change your life" but for the rest of y'all, we're excited to unveil his new album, Noam Pikelny Plays Kenny Baker Plays Bill Monroe! The pressing bit of info is that it's now available for pre-order, but we'll let Noam fill you in on the specifics of the project:

I'm thrilled to announce my new album, Noam Pikelny Plays Kenny Baker Plays Bill Monroe, which will be released October 1st on Compass Records. I’m sure there will be a healthy debate on Twitter and cable-news programs whether my decision to wear a cowboy hat on the album cover is a career-ending move or simply a glimpse into the Brooklyn of the future, but first, please allow me to explain the concept and what was going on inside of my head (and hat).

PIK06-CD copy
PIK06-CD copy

Kenny Baker Plays Bill Monroe, recorded in 1976, five years before I was born, features twelve of the most classic tunes written by the father of Bluegrass, Bill Monroe (1911-1996), performed by his longtime fiddler Kenny Baker (1926-2012). While many insanely talented musicians worked for Bill Monroe, Monroe would introduce Kenny Baker to audiences as "the best in bluegrass" (hint...hint...Chris Thile).  The landmark 1976 album offered Kenny Baker’s refined and elegant renditions of the great Monroe instrumentals all in one place, essentially making it an instrumental Bluegrass bible for me and countless others.

A few years ago I was searching for any source of joy in my life and I jokingly texted Ronnie McCoury asking him, “Could I get away with calling an album Noam Pikelny Plays Kenny Baker Plays Bill Monroe?”  Earlier this year, I came to the realization that during all that time that I was searching for joy and meaning in my life, there was something much more important right in front of me: a valid album concept that could be exploited for meager financial gain. So I started listening anew to Kenny Baker Plays Bill Monroe and spent two months arranging the Baker versions on the banjo, note-for-note.

While there is plenty of dress-up on the album cover,  I didn’t want this new record to be about musical impersonation. Kenny Baker became my definitive source, and I set out to make the tunes my own and develop a unique voice for these classic instrumentals on the banjo. Fellow Punch Brother Gabe Witcher agreed to produce, and this last May we set up camp for four days at Ricky Skaggs’ studio outside of Nashville, TN.  I was joined by my favorite bluegrass musicians in the world: Stuart Duncan on fiddle, Ronnie McCoury on mandolin, Bryan Sutton on guitar, and Mike Bub on bass. We adapted the entire 1976 album, track-by-track, using the original sequence. These guys played so beautifully; I’m convinced there is a real demographic of people who’ll buy this record despite the fact that I’m on it. If you’d like a sneak peak, you can listen to “Big Sandy River” from the new album right here.

So there ya have it, head on over to to check out the pre-order options, which include vinyl, an exclusive 11x17 letterpress print designed by Hammerpress (limited edition of 300), and items signed by Noam. As a bonus, when you place your order, you'll receive an instant download of "Fiddler’s Pastime."

For those of you eying the vinyl options, let us point out that Thile's latest, Bach: Sonata(s) and Partita(s), Vol. 1 will be coming out on 140g on September 24th and is now available for pre-order as well! So about those parentheses: the vinyl version of the album only has room for the first sonata and partita but the pre-order comes with a digital copy of the entire recording, Sonata No. 2 in A Minor included.

We're excited to announce that Punch Brothers will be part of the fantastic line-up for Another Day, Another Time: Celebrating the Music of "Inside Llewyn Davis" on September 29th at The Town Hall in New York City. Tickets go on-sale tomorrow, August 21st, at noon ET, visit here for details.

There's also plenty of touring going on currently with Critter closing out his tour with Julian Lage (and don't forget their new EP) and Thile on the road with the Goat Rodeo fellas. Thile will also be doing an extensive solo tour this fall, and Noam will be touring in support of his new record with Bryan Sutton, Luke Bulla, Barry Bales, and Jesse Cobb. You can find details for those and other upcoming live dates on the tour page as usual.


Punch Brothers HQ

NewsPunch Brothers HQ