Better Late Than Never Review: Chris Thile & Michael Daves’ Sleep With One Eye Open

Despite its size advantage over many of the other instruments traditionally associated with bluegrass, the guitar can often be difficult to isolate in recordings. This is particularly true in the earliest bluegrass where the guitar was almost entirely relegated to rhythm duties. Besides, guitar gets to be the center of attention in most other American music; let the fiddle, mandolin, and banjo get their spotlight. That doesn’t sit well with the guitar junky. For these people, recordings stripped down to just guitar and mandolin are the perfect fit.

In 2011, mandolin virtuoso Chris Thile teamed up with guitarist Michael Daves for the soaring Sleep With One Eye Open. The album is full-throttle bluegrass highlighted by fantastic lead vocals/harmonies and awe inspiring fretwork. Thile needs no introduction. As a founder of both Nickel Creek and Punch Brothers, Chris is the face of bluegrass for generation X/Y. His mandolin produces perfect melodic effect when its his turn and powerfully drives the rhythm while Daves takes his turn.

Michael Daves flies a bit more under the radar, at least nationally. Follow his Facebook profile and you’ll see he regularly spends his New York nights jamming with bluegrass heavyweights like Thile, Noam Pikelny, and Bryan Sutton. The man is a tour-de-force on the guitar. Whether booming bass runs or pickin’ fast and furious, Michael is a master of the left and right hands. He’ll more than satisfy the aforementioned guitar junky.

Key tracks include “Rabbit In The Log,” “20/20 Vision,” “Tennessee Blues”, “Rain and Snow”… hell, all of them. Sleep With One Eye Open is an album that gets guaranteed repeat listens end-to-end. Each musician brings considerable talent to the table but in the end still somehow equates to more than the sum of the parts.

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