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Thread: Reruns from there

  1. #1
    Gadfly Dr H's Avatar
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    Default Reruns from there

    Okay, I think I gave Chris Thile's radio show a fair chance. I liked him as a musician and technician, and had been a long time fan of PHC, so I hung in there. I tried to like the show; I really did.

    I stuck with it through him throwing his mentor under the bus for reasons best not brought up here. I stuck with it through the name change from the evocative "Prairie Home Companion" to the generic "Live From Here". I stuck with it through the six or eight new shows per year endlessly repeated (that may be a local phenomenon, but it has happened here). I put up with the major restructuring from a homespun narrative program to more of a musical variety format interspersed with mediocre comedians. But in the end, it is the musical direction of Thile himself that finally drove me away.

    It's true that Garrison Keillor didn't really have all that great a singing voice, but he more than made up for his lack of musical prowess with his narrative skills. Thile actually has a pretty good voice, when he sings in full voice, which has depressingly become less and less as the show has gone on. Instead he has indulged more and more in a whiny falsetto which reminds me -- unpleasantly -- of why I never really liked Neil Young.

    Thile's playing is impecable, no matter what he applies it to. But his compositional efforts seem to have wandered out to pasture and never come home. I get that he has to produce new material for every show, and that's not easy. And I have no objection to trying out experimental stuff now and then. But it can be overdone.

    So many of the original tunes he presents on the show seem to be essentially formless; most of them go on far too long; the harmonies seem random; the melodies meander all over the place without ever either being developed or settling down; the lyrics are self-indulgent; and there's never any groove. It's as if someone took a bunch of Schoenberg's 12-tone music, removed all the dissonances, and used it to set a bunch of faux-relevant non-rhyming hipster poetry.

    It's not even that I find the music bad; I just find it dull, uninteresting, and generic. None of these compositions particularly stand out from the others; they all sound like variations of the same song. From a music theory standpoint they're all competently composed. But they're not melodically, rhythmically, or lyrically catchy, and therefore mostly unmemorable.

    After 20 years of listening to PHC, and 2 to LFH, I'm giving up on the show, which has begun to bore me to tears. End of an era, in more ways than one.

    Note: The above is, of course, just my personal opinion. I don't require or expect anyone else to share it. But I do rather feel as though I've lost something, and this seems like a place where I could lay it out. If you love LFH and Chris Thile, I wish you all the best. By all means keep listening, and call me if he ever returns to his senses.
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  3. #2
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    Default Re: Reruns from there

    I totally agree! I stopped listening mostly because I've heard them all. He's a great musician, but there isn't enough "roots" to it anymore. I don't really know the details of Garrison's downfall, but I miss him.

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    Default Re: Reruns from there

    Well to start with, because I think it needs addressing... I think it's hyperbole to say he "threw his mentor under a bus."

    It's true that Keilor invited Thile to play on PCH many times, eventually inviting him to guest host. I see that as simply a recognition of talent, like everyone else he invited on the show. And also a good marketing move, to get someone young fronting the stage every now and then, in the later years of the show when things were getting a bit slow and grizzled alongside an aging audience. To my mind, a "mentor" implies something much stronger. There isn't much of Keilor in Thile's approach to the show. It's his own thing.

    My personal view on the new format, is that I do miss some things from the old PCH format, and there are some things I'm not crazy about with the new format. Like the regular appearance of the "Have you ever... I have" comedian, which is getting a bit stale. I'm about 50/50 in enjoying (or not) Chris' own playing on the show. The high points for me are things like the Musician Birthday tributes, where it's interesting hearing him arrange so many different styles on mandolin. The low points are the more self-indulgent bits, but they don't dominate the show.

    The main reason I keep listening is for the other people he brings on. I value hearing musicians, especially younger ones, that I never would run into otherwise because I have my head buried so deep in the style of music I play, As an old guy, I like hearing what's new. And I'd rather hear what Thile is presenting on Live From Here than the current Pop music on the radio. Not all of it is good (personal opinion), but it does open my ears. I think that's a net positive. Otherwise I'd be turning into a crusty old Irish trad player who never wanted to hear anything but airs, jigs and reels.

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    Default Re: Reruns from there

    Quote Originally Posted by Dr H View Post

    Instead he has indulged more and more in a whiny falsetto which reminds me -- unpleasantly -- of why I never really liked Neil Young.
    Don't know anything about the show, but I do know...
    Buffalo Springfield wouldn't have been the band they were, without him
    Young totally completed and improved by great deal, Crosby, Stills & Nash
    And had good solo career as well
    Great songwriter, guitar player and had a unique voice style that had a grunginess
    to it.
    He's played with a who's who list, and top musicians seem to like and respect and want to play with him
    He's a hall of famer....

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    Default Re: Reruns from there

    Have you ever heard the same "Live From Here" show more than once and turned it off because it wasn't that good the first time?
    I Have

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    Default Re: Reruns from there

    Quote Originally Posted by Dr H View Post

    I get that he has to produce new material for every show, and that's not easy.
    I was never a fan of Prairie Home Companion, and while I appreciate Thile's musical virtuosity, his music generally isn't my cup of tea, so I have no strong opinions on the matter. However, in reference to the short quote above, there was a Canadian show called On The Road Again in which Wayne Rostad, a singer/songwriter, visited and interviewed various interesting rural people across the country. Each half-hour show had two visits. The show's theme song, written by Rostad, was played at the beginning and end, As well, he wrote and sang two "throwaway" songs about the people he visited. A friend, married to a professional musician, pointed out that Rostad was receiving royalties for writing and singing four songs, every time the show was played. And it re-ran for many years. I can't say I blame him; musicians need to get money where they can. However, a traditional tune might often have been more suitable.
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    Default Re: Reruns from there

    Ever wonder why they don't make good movies anymore? Recorded music has devolved into MP3 format? Fashion has gone downhill, and young folks don't respect their elders?

    You are old. Bring back the George Gobel Show.
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    Default Re: Reruns from there

    I don't know the show , but I'm familiar with Chris Thile's journey . I am in total agreement with your comments about him , in particular, and in fact just today I tried to listen to the newest Punch Brothers album ( again ) and gave up 3 -4 tracks in . The boys ( Thile ? ) seem so desperate to dress up something not worth dressing up and its fpr this reason , primarily , that I never could get on board with the band .

    Not to go on slamming the guy cuz he's inarguabley a brilliant musician ....but yeah ...I think he's kind spun out of orbit in terms of creating something accessible melodically .Please ...don't send me mail if your a Chris fan ....I get it ...he's an inspiration , a mandolin God , and prolific is a huge understatement . I'm just saying that for me , personally , and for several other folks , apparently , its getting progressively harder for me to find Chris material I can hang my hat on .

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    Default Re: Reruns from there

    I stopped listening to PHC when I moved out of my parent's house and could choose what was on the radio in the living room. I could never understand why PHC was the same 2 hour show every week. I like CT but feel that LFH is burdened with the same issue. It is a formulaic show that feels like I've already heard it. If it was an hour each week, it might be fresher, tighter.
    As it is now, I find it no better than PHC, which I could not figure out why so many liked it.

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    Default Re: Reruns from there

    Being in the UK,i obviously haven't heard either the current programme or it's predecessor. I can only say that having once been an ardent Chris Thile 'appreciator' ( i loathe the word 'fan'),i now find his current music so self indulgent,that i can't imagine that it was composed for anybody but CT & his band to enjoy.

    From colorado_al - " ...that feels like I've already heard it..." In some respects,that has to be the worst aspect of it. A music style that makes you want to NOT listen to it because of it's constant repetition.

    We all recognise the immense talent that Chris Thile posesses,but i also think that we're all hoping for a return to his 'roots' somewhere down the line ?. Who amongst us wouldn't go to see & hear CT with a full Bluegrass band going all out & playing some good mainstream Bluegrass or 'Newgrass' ?,
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  18. #11
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    Default Re: Reruns from there

    Quote Originally Posted by Dr H View Post
    Okay, I think I gave Chris Thile's radio show a fair chance. I liked him as a musician and technician, and had been a long time fan of PHC, so I hung in there. I tried to like the show; I really did.

    I stuck with it through him throwing his mentor under the bus for reasons best not brought up here. I stuck with it through the name change from the evocative "Prairie Home Companion" to the generic "Live From Here". I stuck with it through the six or eight new shows per year endlessly repeated (that may be a local phenomenon, but it has happened here). I put up with the major restructuring from a homespun narrative program to more of a musical variety format interspersed with mediocre comedians. But in the end, it is the musical direction of Thile himself that finally drove me away.

    It's true that Garrison Keillor didn't really have all that great a singing voice, but he more than made up for his lack of musical prowess with his narrative skills. Thile actually has a pretty good voice, when he sings in full voice, which has depressingly become less and less as the show has gone on. Instead he has indulged more and more in a whiny falsetto which reminds me -- unpleasantly -- of why I never really liked Neil Young.

    ....
    The Neil Young comment is awesome, wish I’d have thought of it!
    Are you from the south?!? Lol (I hear they don’t need him around anyhow).

    Please take this with a grain of salt, but I don’t think the new show is directed at the previous APHC listeners of the show. Yes, there is some homage and some bits are the same (or at least similar), but LFH is all about experiencing music through the eyes of Chris Thile. You get a couple of hours to be inside his head and hear what he has dished up for this week. I think Jimmy Fallon is similar on the tonight show. It’s really all about him and not as much about the guests.

    It’s funny how thile gets criticized for having these repetitious shows AND for having music that is very hard to follow/musically “out there”. Seems like he is trying to keep from playing the same thing over and over so he is always doing new stuff/ originals. When I saw the Punch Brothers play in Kansas City and then two weeks later at red rocks, the set list was exactly the same… It is what it is, and after I look at their tour schedule and then that he was doing these extra shows in between while traveling internationally, I get it. I would rather listen to thile “phone it in” then any of the old APHC but that is just me.

    As far as the Thile original compositions go, I don’t think he’s ever written a traditional Bluegrass tune? He does cover them... Does Rye Whiskey count? So I would ask the bluegrass traditionalists why they want to force him to play someone elses music? I bet that gets boring for him. He is appealing to a different generation, and their music sounds weird and strange to many older ears.

    I rarely ever listen to the live radio broadcast, but will catch the show on the website when I have a free time later. Perhaps you would take more enjoyment if you quit trying to listen every week and just look for the new shows and the segments you want to hear.

    Just my opinion,
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    Default Re: Reruns from there

    Well, I try to listen every week, and I totally dig the show. So there.

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    Default Re: Reruns from there

    The first season I would sit by the computer and watch the show live. Now I wait for the highlights on YouTube. Love the talent, the diversity of artists. It's still one of the only reasons to support my local public radio station. Oh wait, they dropped the show when Keillor left.
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    Default Re: Reruns from there

    I think you need to separate yourself from what we knew as PHC. Except this as a new show and not a continuation or even a replacement for what we loved for most of our adult lives.
    This is a new show and the best thing we have like it on public radio or anyplace else. The new show introduces us to lesser known performers that we may like or dislike, but upon hearing them we then know our feelings about their brand of music. I like it when he has guests that I may identify with like David Crosby or other music institutions from my past. Perhaps more of these will come with time as I can only assume that LFH is working with a smaller budget than our beloved PHC.
    On the comment about Neil Young, I was never a big fan but he did write some really good songs that made fans out of a lot of people. He can't please everyone.
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    Default Re: Reruns from there

    I liked your essay. Way to put it out there!

    I've grown tired of Neil Young too! That said, I do like his work on Buffalo Springfield and CSNY, but that's about it!

    Thile is quite the player! Rambling compositions tire me; however.

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    Default Re: Reruns from there

    How exactly did he throw Garrison Keillor under the bus?

  26. #17
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    Default Re: Reruns from there

    Quote Originally Posted by GDAE View Post
    How exactly did he throw Garrison Keillor under the bus?
    Simple; he didn't.

    I think Thile handled an incredibly difficult situation with tact and care. And he went on to create a compelling music-variety show that is, like all variety shows, hit or miss. But I think the show hits far more often than it misses.

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    Default Re: Reruns from there

    Grew up on PHC, quit listening when I got older and got XM (Bluegrass Junction). I put Chris Thile up there in my pantheon of Mandolin virtuoso's. He like Sam Bush, Sierra Hull, Dawg, and Ricky Skaggs are players that I won't change the station on regardless because I want so earnestly to glean something from their playing. I have tried to listen to LFH and its simply not my cup of tea, all the music sounds the same and the jokes aren't that funny. I do wish him the best and hopes that LFH can further develop into something I would listen too.

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    Default Re: Reruns from there

    Quote Originally Posted by Dr H View Post
    I stuck with it through him throwing his mentor under the bus for reasons best not brought up here. o)
    While I do not share your critical opinion of the show I do respect it with exception to the comment "throwing his mentor under the bus".
    I think most people would agree that Thile had nothing to do with the reason Garrison is no longer part of the program. Do you really think that Thile had the pull with NPR to pull off such a stunt? Surely you jest that he, as a newcomer to NPR, wielded that much power/control within the hierarchy of NPR. It was questionable thru the first season whether or not the show was even going to remain with questions of sponsorship and legalities evolving around Garrison's proprietary rights to intellectual property.
    Thile was put into a difficult position and what we now have is a new show.
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