Nickel Creek

Nickel Creek

Sugar Hill Records, 2000

REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 10/16/2000

Buh. Just… buh .

It's very hard to write a review when you're stunned and look like a pithed frog, staring at the speakers in disbelief. From the first five seconds I heard Nickel Creek (on one of those late night syndicated music video shows) I was stunned. They are, quite simply, the best roots/Celtic/bluegrass music I've heard this year. This is good stuff, gang.

All right, now that I've stated my opinion, let me tell you why.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Nickel Creek is a band of wunderkinder. Fiddler and vocalist Sara Watkins won the Arizona State Fiddle Champion when she was 15. Her brother Sean placed in the finals of the National Flatpicking Guitar Championship when he was 16. Mandolin player Chris Thile has been an International Bluegrass Music Award nominee for four years running. In short, Nickel Creek is a roots music supergroup where the oldest member is 22. Thank the myriad gods that not everyone is trying to be Britney Spears.

It's not just the awards that make Nickel Creek great. Sara Watkins' voice is alternately plaintive, sensual, and pure, an oracle of sound vaguely reminiscent of Raylene Rankin's without Raylene's occasional nasality. She remains clear as crystal, heart-stopping as shattered glass. The guitar and mandolin work of Thile and Sean Watkins is transcendent, intricate, and brilliant, and they're no slouch at vocals, either. While upright bass player Scott Thile is no longer with the band, his work on Nickel Creek is rhythmic, insistent, the heartbeat of the music. (Nashville session bassist Byron House has joined the band, at least for touring.)

The songs are marvelous. I cannot, for the life of me, get "Reasons Why" out of my CD player. In many ways the heart of the CD, it is the perfect showcase for Sara Watkins' precise vocals and Chris Thile's mandolin work. The hypnotic melody will stay in your head for hours after you hear it. (I ordered the CD based on hearing it once.) The rest of the CD is a fun and eclectic mix of originals ("The Lighthouse's Tale"), covers ("Out Of The Woods"), instrumentals ("House Of Tom Bombadil", showing off Sara Watkins' blazing fiddle and Chris Thile's hyperactive mandolin), and traditional tunes ("The Fox" and a musical version of Robert Burns' "Flow Gently Sweet Afton"). All are excellent.

For fans of roots music, Nickel Creek is a must have, and quickly has risen into my top ten CDs for the year, if not number one. Get it. You won't be sorry.

Rating: A

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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© 2000 Duke Egbert and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Sugar Hill Records, and is used for informational purposes only.