Why Should The Fire Die?

Nickel Creek

Sugar Hill Records, 2005


REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert


A logical extension of the "sophomore slump" is, if you'll forgive me running the metaphor into the ground, the "junior jitters." In other words, you've put out one incredible album and one disappointing one; what the third one looks like is, in truth, a measure of the artist's resiliency and staying power.

Nickel Creek is a textbook example. No one can argue that the band's core of Sean and Sara Watkins and Chris Thile aren't talented. The question is whether they could recover from a second CD ( my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 This Side) that, frankly, I thought was a bit underplayed, forced and awkward. When Why Should The Fire Die? arrived in my mailbox, I approached it with an odd mix of anticipation and apprehension.

Turns out I shouldn't have worried. Fire is a brilliant CD.

First off, the bass is back. Tracks like "Can't Complain" and "Stumptown" have real thumping bass sound to them, courtesy of Mark Schatz. Secondly, the production is clear and crisp, a definite improvement over This Side's shallow and ephemeral sound.

It's the songwriting, though, that really takes this CD into the realms of greatness. Nickel Creek is branching out and taking risks, and it shows. At their core on tracks like "First And Last Waltz" and "Doubting Thomas" their sound is still newgrass - but songs like "Best Of Luck" (with a driving acoustic guitar intro that wouldn't be out of place on an alternative CD) and "Somebody More Like You" show them branching out into musical forms that are almost unquantifiable. The risks they take, the defiance of form, is almost breathtaking in places.

Then, of course, there's "When In Rome."

I had complained in my review of This Side that there was no "Reasons Why" on their second CD. (For those of you who have somehow missed it, "Reasons Why", from Nickel Creek's first self-titled CD, is one of the greatest songs every written and has more hooks than a bass-fishing contest). Not so on Why Should The Fire Die? -- the CD had me from the opening track, "When In Rome," which is just a great damn song with soaring harmonies and a driving, minor-key instrumental line.

Why Should The Fire Die?, indeed. In fact, it hasn't died, it's just gotten hotter and more intense. Nickel Creek has once again proven why they're one of the more innovative and talented musical acts in America today.

Rating: A

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2005 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.