Let It Fall

Sean Watkins

Sugar Hill Records, 2001


REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert


Warning: The Surgeon General has determined that aspiring guitarists should not listen to Sean Watkins. You'll only become hopelessly frustrated at your own lack of skills. I mean, come on he's in his early 20s and he already plays this good? It's enough to make you take up crocheting. I speak from experience.

Sean Watkins, guitarist for Nickel Creek, has released his first solo album, Let It Fallmy_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 , and let me tell you, folks, it's a doozy. Watkins may be the best young flatpicking guitarist out there, and this album is a masterpiece of guitar styling. And to add insult to injury, Watkins self-produced this CD, and the production is perfect.

It's hard to quantify this CD in a lot of ways. Nickel Creek is (mostly) a bluegrass outfit, and there's a good deal of traditional bluegrass and newgrass on Let It Fall. However, Watkins branches out in a lot of ways; there are discrete musical influences and accents that show he's not just a flatpicker. In a lot of ways, Watkins' work reminds me of Lawrence Juber's solo CDs; he has that same plain love for the guitar and how it sounds, and it makes the CD a joy to listen to.

Watkins' brilliance aside, the guest musicians are the "Usual Sugar Hill Suspects" with a few surprises. Sean's sister, Sara Watkins, shows up playing elegant fiddle on three tracks; Chris Thile contributes mandolin to two tracks; six-time International Bluegrass Music Award winner Jerry Douglas plays dobro on three tracks; and Bluegrass Etc.'s Dennis Caplinger chimes in with banjo on two. All are wonderful. Even weirder, and just as wonderful, is former Toad The Wet Sprocket lead vocalist Glen Phillips, who sings lead vocals on the title track, the only non-instrumental piece on the CD.

Wonderful is, indeed, the word. "Let It Fall" is, simply, one of the most beautiful songs I've ever heard, and Phillips nails the vocals perfectly. Other tracks worth special notice: "Neo's Song", "January Second", "Ferdinand The Bull", "The Orange Autumn Days"...oh, heck, it's all good. Even the hidden track at the end, a device which sometimes annoys me, is a lot of fun.

Yes, Watkins is young. Yes, it's aggravating sometimes that he's this good, though only for a little while and with a smile on one's face. But there's one advantage to that; if he's this good already, think how much better he'll get. I, for one, can hardly wait.

Rating: A

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2001 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.