Mint Julep by the Punch Brother's is expansive and intimate at the same time - mapping the mournful hills and dusty roads of broken dreams with a sublime mash-up of country jazz, alt Americana, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young harmonies and modern classical string arrangement.
Formed by Chris Thile, an acclaimed mandolinist since childhood - their oeuvre, although borrowing from a veritable melting pot of musical genres, is progressive Appalachian/Bluegrass at heart (shades of Chet Atkins, Earl Scruggs and Floyd Cramer's country/jazz 'slip note' stylings quietly inform the arrangements). Chris and the violinist, Gabe, in particular - lure the listener in with angelically beautiful, heart-breaking melodic themes played with an almost manic, passionate virtuosity.
The engineering is immaculate - a crisp clarity with no sacrifice of any warmth inherent in the different stringed instruments recorded. The vocal harmonies - often complex (making use of close intervals) and sung gently - have been placed prominently in the mix, creating the impression they are being sung 'in your ear' . . . languorous, dangerous and soft as a whisper.
There's a magical sense of 'space' and loneliness imparted by the beautiful use of reverb and minor modalities of the music, music that's sophisticated, powerful and thought-provoking.