Noam Pikelny: "Beat the Devil and Carry a Rail"

by Ariana Pekary, producer

Good music is just good music, no matter its origins — even if it happens to be instrumental banjo bluegrass played by a Chicagoan.  It doesn’t hurt that Noam Pikelny has a wonderfully dry wit (he remembers the time as a young banjo student when he predicted that one day he knew he would be good enough to see his name in chalk).  That combined with his amazing musical talent have earned him accolades and good friends.  

As we’ve heard before on this show, Pikelny won the first ever Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass.  He’s also become chums with fellow banjo player, the actor Ed Helms.  So when it came time to promote his second solo album, “Beat the Devil and Carry a Rail,” he recruited their help.  Pikelny wasn’t comfortable boasting about himself in a press video, so he went the opposite direction and made a Funny or Die video, which has been named, “Bluegrass Diva.” 

It’s really funny, so you should take the time to watch it.  And the album itself is gorgeous.  Perhaps we shouldn’t name a favorite, but let’s just say anytime the song “Fish and Bird” begins, the vagus nerve always flexes in one of our Bob Edwards Show producers.  Aiofe O’Donovan sings that Tom Waits cover — and you can also hear her sing with Yo-Yo Ma, Chris Thile and The Goat Rodeo Sessions.  

Talent abounds — and they’re so young.  I can’t wait to hear more, much more, and for many years to come.