PUNCH BROTHERS ‘Hell on Church Street’


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Punch Brothers interpret bluegrass guitarist Tony Rice’s 1983 brilliant album, Church Street Blues.
Since 2018’s All Ashore, frontman and mandolinist Chris Thile has remained his typically busy self. He wrapped up his public radio show Live From Here in 2020 May after the COVID-19 pandemic made recording episodes in front of a live audience untenable. He also released a second star-studded Goat Rodeo album in 2020 and put out a solo record in 2021 June. When Punch Brothers finally reconvened after the forced separation of the pandemic, they decided to do a covers album. More specifically, Hell on Church Street is a cover of a covers album.

Guitarist Tony Rice’s 1983 record, Church Street Blues, featured a mixture of bluegrass and folk covers, primarily played solo by Rice on guitar and vocals. Rice’s brother, Wyatt, sat in on rhythm guitar on a handful of the tracks, but those are the only instruments on the entire album. Even with this limitation, Rice managed an impressive array of tones and moods on the record. For Hell on Church Street, it’s good to hear The Punch Brothers getting back to the technical, challenging playing that got them tagged as “progressive bluegrass” in the first place. These tracks are filled with stylistic variety and interesting arrangement choices. It’s a fascinating project and a rewarding listen. Longtime fans of the band should get a kick out of this record, and hopefully, Tony Rice aficionados will appreciate the new interpretations of these songs.