Violence and Orchids, the vinyl edition of Michael Daves's Orchids and Violence, comprises two versions each of traditional bluegrass tunes: acoustic takes performed with a band of roots-music innovators—bassist Mike Bub, violinist Brittany Haas, mandolinist Sarah Jarosz, and Punch Brothers banjoist Noam Pikelny—paired with electric rock renditions of the same songs played mostly by Daves. It's "a roots-music master class, a brilliant example of old modes reinhabited with flair," says the New York Times. "To his credit, it can be hard to pick which version of a tune is best.” The LP includes a download of the complete Orchids and Violence album.
Nonesuch Records released Violence and Orchids, the vinyl edition of Michael Daves's new album, Orchids and Violence, on May 6, 2016. The vinyl edition comprises two versions each of five traditional bluegrass tunes: acoustic takes performed with a band of roots-music innovators—bassist Mike Bub, violinist Brittany Haas, mandolinist Sarah Jarosz, and Punch Brothers banjoist Noam Pikelny—paired with electric rock renditions of the same songs played mostly played by Daves, with his wife Jessi Carter playing bass. It's "a roots-music master class, a brilliant example of old modes reinhabited with flair," says the New York Times. "To his credit, it can be hard to pick which version of a tune is best." The LP includes a download of the complete Orchids and Violence album.
The straightforward interpretations of the songs were recorded live to tape in a 19th-century church by Daves. The second disc was recorded in Daves's home studio and includes bass, drums, and electric guitar, and takes a raw, experimental rock approach to the same old-time material. The album was mixed by Vance Powell (Jack White, Kings of Leon, Danger Mouse).
"One of the things I love about bluegrass music is the tension between innovation and tradition," says Daves of the album. "When bluegrass came together, it was a fabrication of a variety of influences in American music yet it quickly became something people assume has been around forever. With this project, I can respect and honor the traditional aspects of that but also reflect on the innovative nature of bluegrass music when it was being created, when it was new.
"In the early conceptions of the electric record, I was thinking about it as something of a grunge record, but as it developed it became something pretty different," Daves says. "Those sounds that were happening in the early nineties were part of my discovering music, what I was absorbing as I was going out on my own as a guitarist and having my own bands. But when I got into making the record it was much more about the fun of exploring new sounds than reconnecting with some musical past. The album followed a period where I hadn't been playing much electric music, so plugging in felt pretty fresh, like discovering something new."
Daves has long made his living as an in-demand guitar teacher while playing at small venues like Rockwood Music Hall on the Lower East Side. He previously recorded bluegrass standards on Sleep with One Eye Open, his Nonesuch debut, a duo session with mandolinist Chris Thile (Punch Brothers, Nickel Creek) that earned the pair a 2011 Grammy nomination. In addition to working with Thile, he has also performed and recorded with Steve Martin, Tony Trischka, and Roseanne Cash. Although he is best known as a roots musician, and was reared on bluegrass music during his childhood in Atlanta, he gravitated toward experimental music and jazz while studying at Hampshire College in Massachusetts. Relocating to Brooklyn more than a decade ago, Daves began to crave the social interaction and musical challenges of bluegrass: "In Western Massachusetts, I was mostly doing jazz. By the time I moved to New York, I was ready to leave that behind, get back to my personal roots in bluegrass music. There were good jam sessions in New York and I was excited to reenter a regular jamming culture in the city. And I was getting back into rock music, too. The Brooklyn scene in 2003 and 2004 was pretty fertile. There was a lot of great, kind of raw, experimental rock music happening at that time, drawing me in, scratching an itch."
Produced by Michael Daves
Bluegrass recorded December 27–29, 2014, in the Upper Hall of Old First Reformed Church, Brooklyn, NY
Engineer: Matt Werden
Electric recorded Spring 2015 at The Rink, Brooklyn, NY
Engineer: Michael Daves
Mixed by Vance Powell at Sputnik Sound
Mastered by Jessica Thompson
Album artwork and design by Jessi Carter
Photographs by Justin Camerer
Sarah Jarosz appears courtesy of Sugar Hill Records
Michael Daves, guitar, vocals
Noam Pikelny, banjo
Sarah Jarosz, mandolin, octave mandolin, harmony vocals
Brittany Haas, fiddle
Mike Bub, bass
Mike Barnett, fiddle (1:5)
Alex Hargreaves, fiddle (1:5)
Tony Trischka, cello banjo (2:1)
Michael Daves, vocals, guitars, mandolin, drums, keyboards, bowed banjo
Jessi Carter, bass