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Universal Favorite is the fourth record Noam Pikelny has released under his own name, but its truly his solo debut. His previous efforts including 2011s Beat the Devil and Carry a Rail and 2014s landmark Noam Pikelny Plays Kenny Baker Plays Bill Monroe were full-band affairs that revealed his abilities as a dynamic bandleader while reinforcing his reputation as an inventive accompanist. The new release features only the man himself, playing lovely originals and covers that showcase his unique approach to the instrument and compositional flair. He recorded them live in the studio without accompaniment, coaxing a wide array of sounds and colors out of his instruments, embracing the challenges and exploring the new possibilities of the solo setting.

And, for the first time in his long and illustrious career, Pikelny even sings. It turns out he has a striking deadpan baritone that conveys humor and melancholy in equal measure. This album, he says, is my musical manifesto. Its the most personal statement Ive put forward. The setting couldnt be more stark and I think it lays bare my musical core. At times its autobiographical, as these songs I gathered illuminate the path Ive traveled so far. Most importantly, its an incredibly honest solo album, in that there are honestly no other people on this record other than me.