G2E Ep 014 A Conversation with Chris “Critter” Eldridge

INTRO: Today, a conversation with Chris “Critter” Eldridge: the flatpicking guitar wizard perhaps best known for his work with Punch Brothers, an ensemble that utilizes traditional Bluegrass instrumentation, but is not afraid to sidestep traditional American music in favor of a thoughtfully rendered Radiohead cover or an equally stunning interpretation of Debussy. And they can pull it all off because Punch Brothers’ membership consists exclusively of virtuoso instrumentalists. There’s Chris Thile on mandolin, Gabe Witcher on fiddle, Noam Pikelny on banjo, Paul Kowert on bass and of course today’s guest, Chris Eldridge on guitar. Each performer is an inimitable master in his own right. We’ll cover a bunch of Punch Brothers compositions, get Critter’s insights into life in the band, and we’ll discuss Critter’s rather fascinating education, started at home, with his father Ben Eldridge, who’s played banjo with the legendary bluegrass outfit The Seldom Scene since the early 1970’s. Speaking of legends: Chris will also discuss his experience studying with the brilliant and enigmatic flatpicker Tony Rice.

Seldom Scene, as seen in the 70’s

PART 1: Musical Beginnings Critter opens up about his formative years watching the Seldom Scene, then first hearing Eric Johnson’s A Via Musicom. From there, he attended Oberlin Conservatory, and studied with the legendary Tony Rice.

Punch Brothers

Tony Rice

PART 2: Punching In: Critter discusses the beginnings of Punch Brothers, life in the band, songwriting, and gear. Plus, a few words about his duo partner Julian Lage.

Goes2Eleven is production of Chuckleberry Flynn Music, produced and written by Matthew Cochran. G2E’s research team is Ciyadh Wells and Cole Hankins.

Recordings:

“Cicadas at the Equinox” from Vapor Trail from a Paper Plane, written and performed by Matthew Cochran

The Blind Leaving the Blind, 4th Mvmnt from Punch, written by Chris Thile, performed by the Punch Brothers

(Strings by Mail ad): Electric Counterpoint, 3rd Mvmnt, written by Steve Reich, performed by Pat Metheny

Goldberg Variations, theme, written by J.S. Bach, performed by Glenn Gould

“Jive at Five” from Reunion, written by Duke Ellington, performed by Stephane Grappelli and Martin Taylor

“Rawhide” from Live at the Cellar Door, performed by Seldom Scene, written by Dimitri Tiomkin

“Cliffs of Dover” from A Via Musicom, written and performed by Eric Johnson

“Manzanita” from Manzanita, written by Tony Rice, performed by the Tony Rice Unit

“On and On” from The Bill Monroe Collection, written by Bill Monroe, performed by Tony Rice

“Chaconne” from Suite in D minor for solo violin, written by J.S. Bach, performed by Jascha Heifitz

“Fork in the Road” from Fork in the Road, written and performed by the Infamous Stringdusters

The Blind Leaving the Blind, 1st Mvmnt, from Punch, written by Chris Thile, performed by the Punch Brothers

Critter with Julian Lage

“Movement and Location” from Who’s Feeling Young Now? written and performed by Punch Brothers

“Flippen (the Flip)” from Who’s Feeling Young Now?, written by Mikael Marin, performed by Punch Brothers

“Passepied” from Phosphorescent Blues, written by Claude Debussey, performed by Punch Brothers

“Steady Proof” from Avalon, written by Julian Lage, performed by Julian Lage and Chris Eldridge

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