Nashville, TN -- Universal Favorite, the fourth solo album by renowned Punch Brothers banjoist Noam Pikelny, was released today. While Pikelny, a seven-time Grammy nominee best known for his work as a founding member of Punch Brothers, has three previous solo efforts, Universal Favorite is truly his solo debut.
The new release features only the man himself, recorded live in the studio without accompaniment, coaxing a wide array of sounds and colors out of a variety of instruments, and for the very first time, he also sings, revealing a resonant baritone that conveys humor and melancholy in equal measure.
Noam announced the release of his new project commenting,
Noam, here, with some news that will surely change your life.
I'm thrilled to announce that my new album, Universal Favorite, is no longer available for pre-order! Translation: My record has finally been released. It is now available for purchase at large corporate retailers such as The Official Noam Pikelny web store but it can also be found at your favorite mom-and-pop streaming services.
I kicked off the tour last night in Bellingham, WA and will be stopping in 27 other non-Bellingham cities over the next five weeks. Next week, I’m in Colorado with special guest Courtney Hartman opening the shows in Denver, Beaver Creek and Aspen. I'm tickled to finally return to the Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis and the Bowery Ballroom in NYC. Alas, there are just too many shows to call out individually. Can we agree that the concert listed below that is closest to you is by far the most important and deserves your most immediate action?
Rather than continuing on with more of my life story, I’m going to keep this email brief and instead point you to a short film I made that essentially tells my Entire life story and offers some insight into the record making process behind Universal Favorite:
Pikelny, the recipient of the first annual Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo, calls Universal Favorite "my musical manifesto. It's the most personal statement I've put forward. The setting couldn't be more stark, and I think it lays bare my musical core. At times it's autobiographical, as these songs I gathered illuminate the path I've traveled so far. Most importantly, it's an incredibly honest solo album, in that there are honestly no other people on this record other than me."
Universal Favorite also marks Pikelny's debut as a multi-instrumentalist. In addition to his 1941 Gibson Banjo, Pikelny plays a carefully chosen assortment of vintage and exotic instruments that includes a four-string resophonic guitar from 1928, a 1953 Telecaster, and a 1938 Kalamazoo flat-top guitar. An obsessive collector of vintage instruments, Pikelny is fascinated by the insights they provide into bygone days-the way these objects connect the present with the past.
The album is receiving great review from across the acoustical music spectrum.
"In a genre filled with top-notch pickers, Pikelny is a truly stunning instrumentalist. This isn't your grandpa's banjo album...the track list reaches far beyond the old-school roots of bluegrass and folk." Andrew Leahey, Rolling Stone Country
"A purely solo/unaccompanied work that stands firmly on the stunning abilities and eclectic tastes of one of the undisputed contemporary masters of the banjo." Hal Horowitz, American Songwriter
"The heart of the album, though, is its original tunes, on which Pikelny's delicate fingerwork generates gorgeous webs of sound that are sometimes brittle, sometimes glowing...the performances feel more fragile, heartfelt, and honest than anything he's previously done on his own." Peter Margasak, Chicago Reader
"Pikelny's new album delivers true banjo artistry, a big canvas with colors from a broad palette, executed by a master." John McEuen, founding member, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, writing in Elmore Magazine
"Pikelny's distinctive baritone and varied instrumentation allow each track, including the album's four cover songs, to take on a vulnerable, deeply personal quality. His voice is particularly haunting on the rendition of Josh Ritter's "Folk Bloodbath," a gothic tale of three folk singers' ends." Dacey Orr, Garden & Gun
"Listening to Noam Pikelny's new album, Universal Favorite, is almost a cinematic experience. The notes that float and fly out of Mr. Pikelny's instrument seem to catch and reflect light as they move past, making way for the next series of notes, while ultimately gathering to form unforgettable aural landscapes." Gregory Victor, Parcbench