Noam Pikelny Wades Into a 'Folk Bloodbath' (Premiere)

Justin Camerer

Noam Pikelny, banjoist extraordinaire and Punch Brothers mainstay, will release a new solo record on March 3 via Rounder. Universal Favorite will not feature a full band like the five-string picker's previous albums. Instead, Noam will play banjo all by himself (how lonesome) and introduce a brand new instrument to the world — his voice. 

Pikelny's deep baritone is on full display on the new track "Folk Bloodbath," a Josh Ritter cover. Pikelny plucks out a mellow banjo melody, which sounds oddly guitar-like, the taut strings seemingly gutsier than the high-speed heat he usually employs with Punch Brothers. 

Back in 2011, Funny or Die released a parody video called "Bluegrass Diva," which saw Pikelny choosing to pursue a singing career. While it was definitely a parody (he sounds like a dying cat in the clip), it gave me the impression that the banjo man truly could not sing. 

To my surprise, the vocals on "Folk Bloodbath" are pretty swell. Pikelny's singing has an endearing waver to it, like someone who's just getting warmed up, only slightly bashful in front of a brand new room of fans. Take a listen to the track below.


Kind of reminds me of Leo Kottke's transition from six string maestro to singer/songwriter.  Kottke said of his baritone "Geese farts on a muggy day".  He's actually not a bad singer, just not a natural one.  Ditto, I think, for Noam.