Saturday, April 11, 2009

Sara Watkins, on her own

I'll be honest with you, after my first listen I was this close to writing off Sara Watkins' self titled debut as being a shade too country for me. Luckily for me, I didn't, as I've grown to love the album, which just came out this week. If her name is familiar, it's for good reason. She's performed for nearly two decades with her brother Sam Sean as a vocalist and fiddle player in the immensely popular trio Nickel Creek. After the band said farewell in 2007, Sara set off on her own and got to work recording this album, which as an interesting side note, was produced by Led Zeppelin alum John Paul Jones.

A little warning about the album: it starts off slowly with the heart rending All This Time (and for that matter ends slowly, and come to think of it, the middle is kind of slow, too - in other words, a rainy day listen), a poignantly moving song about letting go of a love lost (which you can listen to below). From there she moves on to an old John Hartford country song, Long Hot Summer Days. And while Watkins' bluegrass roots never stray far from your ear here, she does stretch her repertoire somewhat. As the album progresses you'll come across a few instrumentals (Freiderick and Jefferson), a pair of gospel inflected tunes, Lord Won't You Help Me and Give Me Jesus, and a cover of Tom Waits' Pony.

The beauty of the album really transcends boundaries of genre, which is why my initial reaction proved to be immaterial. Another of its strengths are its lyrics, penned by Sara, which are deep and beautiful, and yet minimally painted with no waste of words or needless repetition. Accompanying them is Sara's skilled fiddle work as well as a slew of guests from the bluegrass world who provide subtle tones of melancholy behind her. Below are the album opener All This Time (one of my favorite tracks from the album) and the album closer When Will You Be. Enjoy the pair and then seek out the middle.

Visit her website, her label Nonesuch Records, and become her friend on MySpace.

Upcoming Tour Dates

April 11 Florida Theater Jacksonville, Florida
April 15 Dakota Restaurant & Jazz Club Minneapolis, Minnesota
April 16 Dakota Restaurant & Jazz Club Minneapolis, Minnesota
April 17 The Union Naperville, Illinois
April 18 Vanderbilt University – Rites of Spring Nashville, Tennessee
April 22 The Mercury Lounge New York, NY
April 24 World Café Live Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
April 25 9:30 Club w/Justin James Washington, DC
April 28 Iron Horse Music Hall Northampton, Massachusetts
April 29 Café 939 Boston, Massachusetts
April 30 Port City Music Hall Portland, Maine
May 2 Bearsville Theater Woodstock, New York
May 6 Shank Hall Milwaukee, Wisconsin
May 7 Majestic Theatre Madison, Wisconsin
May 8 Abbey Pub Chicago, Illinois
May 9 Southgate House Newport, Kentucky
May 12 Swedish American Hall San Francisco, California
May 14 Largo at The Coronet Los Angeles, California
May 16 Mississippi Studios Portland, Oregon


Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this, but when you mention her brother, I think you mean Sean?

Sean said...

Completely right Anon. Thanks for catching my brain fart.