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Banjoist Noam Pikelny Reinterprets Classic Bluegrass Album

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Noam Pikelny Plays Kenny Baker Plays Bill MonroeNashville, TN -- Widely known for his work in cutting-edge string band music as a founding member of Punch Brothers, Grammy-nominated Noam Pikelny has emerged as the preeminent banjoist among a new generation of acoustic musicians. Already praised as “a player of unlimited range and astonishing precision” by comedian/banjoist Steve Martin, Pikelny now presents his new concept album, Noam Pikelny Plays Kenny Baker Plays Bill Monroe (October 1st), a unique interpretation of traditional Bluegrass through a bold, complete adaptation of one of the most influential instrumental bluegrass music records of all-time. Joining Pikelny on this tour de force project are the finest instrumentalists in bluegrass: Stuart Duncan (fiddle), Bryan Sutton (guitar), Ronnie McCoury (mandolin), and Mike Bub (bass). Listen to the track "Big Sandy River" here.

Kenny Baker Plays Bill Monroe, recorded in 1976, five years before Pikelny was even born, features twelve classic tunes written by the father of Bluegrass, Bill Monroe (1911-1996), and performed by his longtime fiddler Kenny Baker (1926-2012). While many fine musicians worked for Bill Monroe, Monroe would introduce Kenny Baker to audiences as "the best in bluegrass." Baker’s fiddle brought an elegant and refined voice to Monroe's music and Pikelny precisely transposes Baker’s versions to the banjo, note-for-note, track-by-track. It is the first bluegrass record that remakes an entire album in sequence, though never drifting into an exercise in musical impersonation; instead Pikelny uses the Monroe instrumentals as blueprints and springboards for his own improvisations and those of his band.

The album’s concept first came about when Pikelny jokingly texted McCoury, asking, “Could I get away with calling an album Noam Pikelny Plays Kenny Baker Plays Bill Monroe?” It was over a year later that, upon reflecting on the joke, he began listening anew to Baker's album, and saw that it offered him an opportunity to develop a unique banjoistic voice for that particular set of bluegrass standards. The end result, Noam Pikelny Plays Kenny Baker Plays Bill Monroe, shows Pikelny at a new pinnacle of maturation as a banjo player and musician, redefining the role of the banjo in his own way with an unprecedented approach to melodic playing and thereby setting a new standard in bluegrass for years to come.

Pikelny will showcase the album on tour this October and November with a band that includes Bryan Sutton (guitar), Jesse Cobb (mandolin), Barry Bales (bass), and Luke Bulla (fiddle).

Hailed by the Chicago Tribune as the “pros’ top banjo picker," Pikelny released his solo debut, In the Maze, in 2004. In 2010, he was awarded the first annual Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass earning him an appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman. In 2011, Pikelny’s style and solo approach continued to crystallize with the release of his second album, Beat The Devil and Carry A Rail. The album hit both the Billboard Top Heatseekers and Bluegrass album charts and was the focus of a Funny or Die parody video starring Pikelny with appearances from Steve Martin, Ed Helms, Earl Scruggs, Chris Thile, Gillian Welch, and others. Beat The Devil and Carry A Rail went on to garner a Grammy nomination for Best Bluegrass Album. Noam Pikelny continues to broaden the awareness of the banjo in the mainstream through his work with Punch Brothers, collaborating with Wilco, Fiona Apple, Norah Jones, & Jon Brion for the soundtrack to This is 40, a feature song on The Hunger Games soundtrack, and a collaboration with Marcus Mumford for the upcoming Coen Brothers’ film, Inside Llewyn Davis.

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