Chris Thile

A new description of Chris Thile would be hard to come by, especially since all the good superlatives have already been used. They called him a child prodigy when he was 12 years old and making his first solo album, 1994's Leading Off..., and a virtuoso when he was 20 and putting out his third solo effort, 2001's Not All Who Wander Are Lost. On the heels of those descriptions came effusive adjectives for his talent with a mandolin, words like "brilliant," "bold," "utterly fantastic," and "staggering." Heady stuff for someone who was barely out of his teens. But to hear Thile's joyful playing, or to see his fingers fly with easy speed and agility over his mandolin as they did when he appeared with his bandmates from Nickel Creek on the 35th CMA Awards Show in 2001, is to learn firsthand that the enthusiastic praise aimed at the young mandolin player wasn't just hype.