Google the word “mandolinist” and take a look at the suggestions that drop down in the search bar. The name “Chris Thile” is sure to be at, or near, the top.
Sure, it takes more than a search engine to properly assess an artist’s worth. But it’s a convenient shorthand for the fact that Thile has revolutionized his instrument — not only by furthering the evolution of bluegrass but by bringing the mandolin out of its niche and making it a viable contributor to a variety of styles. When he won a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant” last year, he was cited for a synthesis of styles that “is giving rise to a new genre of contemporary music.”