As a Punch Brother and on this, his second solo album, Noam Pikelny displays laudable technique, though that’s less the story than the nuanced feeling he invests in making his banjo sing. In an exquisitely beautiful moment on “Fish and Bird,” the wistful, Tom Waits/Kathleen Brennan Irish-tinged lament for parted lovers, Aoife O’Donovan’s mournful, lilting vocal rises gently from a haunted landscape evoked by Pikelny’s forlorn noting and Stuart Duncan’s lonesome fiddle. A set- to with Steve Martin on the traditional “Cluck Old Hen,” with Tim O’Brien on mandolin, gives all three players room to explore varying textures in a groove that alternately sprints and retreats, whereas on the challenging “Bear Dog Grit,” the sheer joy of playing emanates from the spirited dialogue among Pikelny, Punch Brother Chris Thile on mandolin, and guitarist Bryan Sutton. Sonically, the album’s various stringed instruments and few voices are dynamic and forceful against an uncluttered backdrop. Progressive and traditional all at once, Beat the Devil and Carry A Rail satisfies on multiple levels, and in the end moves the heart as much as it stimulates the mind.