Goes2Eleven 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.

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.

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.