Never mind that Michael Daves was heralded by The New York Times as “a leading light of the New York bluegrass scene,” or the fact that he had earned enough cred to play alongside such luminaries as Steve Martin, Rosanne Cash, and Tony Trishka. And never mind the fact that his last album, Sleep with One Eye Open, recorded live to tape over four days at Jack White’s Third Man studio with Chris Thile, garnered a Grammy nod and had the critics raving about the duo’s “skill and fervor, and touch of abandon.”
Orchids and Violence, Daves’ new album, actually surpasses those amibitions by showcasing his most daring forays yet. A two CD set, it features twelve Bluegrass standards that are repeated on each album, with one disc done traditionally and the other roughed up with fractured guitar and other electronic enhancements. On first glance, the songs are familiar: “Darling Corey,” “A Good Year for the Roses,” and “Pretty Polly” among the most notable. But given Daves’ experimental take on the electric side, the songs become all but unrecognizable when filtered through the more modern trappings. He gives harsh treatments to “A Good Year for the Roses” and “June Apple,” then proceeds to run roughshod through ”The Dirt that You Know,” “The 28th of January,” and “Dark Angel.”
The second disc is as raucous and unapologetic as any punk performance, and while some might find the rougher side somewhat difficult to take, it’s a remarkable mesh nonetheless. Consequently Orchids and Violence makes for an intriguing demonstration just how far one can push the parameters of bluegrass.