Cover songs have always been integral to the Punch Brothers experience: Early on, Chris Thile and his merry band of prog-grass virtuosos reinterpreted everything from The White Stripes’ “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground” to The Band’s “Ophelia.” Their version of Radiohead’s “Kid A” is still a revelation, the quintet approximating electronics with wood scrapes and dissonant string noise. It only makes sense that they’d record a full-blown covers album—but like everything Punch, there’s nothing straightforward about Hell on Church Street, their first full-length since 2018’s All Ashore. Tracked in November 2020, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the LP pays homage to late Americana guitarist Tony Rice’s 1983 project Church Street Blues—itself a covers album, reworking songs by Bob Dylan, Norman Blake, Bill Monroe, Jimmie Rodgers and Gordon Lightfoot, among others. The concept is intriguing, if, initially, somewhat worrisome. A tribute to a tribute sounds like a copy of a copy—how much meat could still be on these bones? Plenty, it turns out. Even at their most conventionally bluegrass, Punch Brothers make every one of these pieces their own. Monroe’s “The Gold Rush” offers a suitably impressionistic landscape for a band that loves to play with light and shadow—it melds tumbling banjo, flickering mandolin and scraping bow noise into a breathtaking vista. Close your eyes and you just may picture a deer drinking from a meadow stream. Blake’s “Orphan Annie” showcases their shockingly precise vocal harmonies, all laid out over a muted upright bass thump. The most radical—and, thus, most Punchian—reinvention comes on Blake’s “Church Street Blues,” with all the players weaving their parts into a delicate 5/4 tapestry.