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Nickel Creek: The Virtuosic Bluegrass Trio Reunites

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Nickel Creek performs in the Soundcheck studio. Nickel Creek performs in the Soundcheck studio. (Michael Katzif / WNYC)

Nickel Creek almost immediately wowed audiences when they burst onto the circuit in the early '90s. A trio of precocious child prodigies -- Chris Thile on mandolin and banjo, Sara Watkins on fiddle, and her brother Sean Watkins on guitar -- Nickel Creek boasted adventurous songs that melded elements of progressive bluegrass and country, classical and jazz, traditional roots and rock, performed with ecstatic virtuosity and youthful liveliness.

 

But after three delightful and acclaimed albums in the early 2000s, Thile and the Watkins each went their separate ways, pursuing massively successful solo careers and accolades. Sara Watkins launched a solo career and toured with The Decemberists; Sean Watkins formed Fiction Family, and both became a staple at L.A.'s club Largo. Meanwhile, Thile has played with nearly everyone: he co-founded The Punch Brothers, performed with Michael Daves, recorded with Yo-Yo Ma, Bela Fleck, Stuart Duncan and Edgar Meyer on the Goat Rodeo Sessionstackled Bach on the mandolin, and on and on. Oh yeah, and he became a MacArthur Fellow, too.

So it's not like Nickel Creek needed to reform (they were doing just fine, thank you!) -- but it's a welcome return all the same. Now eight years after its last album, the trio has just released a new album, A Dotted Line. The concise 10-song record finds each member equally refreshed and wiser from those experiences. And remarkably, while each member's distinctive musical voice comes through, the chemistry between Thile and Sara and Sean Watkins when they play together has never felt stronger.

 

 

Listen as their vocal harmonies glide together, as Thile's dexterous mandolin melodies playfully intertwine with Watkin's warm violin, and as the genre-defying songs allow room for spontaneity and fun. The record -- which also features guest spots from master bassists Edgar Meyer and Mark Schatz and drummer extraordinaire, Matt Chamberlain -- collects originals and a handful of covers, like the Sam Phillips song "Where Is Love Now?" Ultimately, while A Dotted Line documents a more mature Nickel Creek than it once was, yet that joyfully rebellious spirit that so many of us fell for still shines through.

Set List:

  • "Rest Of My Life"
  • "Destination"
  • "21st Of May"

Guests:

Nickel Creek and Chris Thile

Comments [14]

Gary

curious Chris, while in Louisville perfoming at Forecastle you slammed the YUM center. A fan of most all your music wondering what's the issue?

Aug. 05 2014 11:56 AM
Chungiemunchin from Baltimore

Has it been 8 years since their last? My time is flying. Like The Beatles, Nickel Creek grew up in front of us and are now living their lives for all to see (at least professionally speaking). Definitely a great group with prodigious talents!

Apr. 10 2014 05:04 AM
Dano

Nickel Creek = Joy

Apr. 09 2014 02:35 AM
Ian from Mass

They are immensely talented, so happy they are back together. Haven't been able to stop spinning the new album since it came out last week. It honestly might end up being my favorite of theirs so far, which is really saying something.

Apr. 08 2014 10:04 PM
Aimee from Tucson

I remember seeing them at Calico! Loved them ever since and so happy they are back! :)

Apr. 05 2014 01:10 AM
Thom

Such a great band, and a great example of how musicians should work... Get out there and share your talent! Who cares if it is bluegrass, folk, or just a contemporary modern sound, well done you guys! Looking forward to seeing you again in Virginia.

Apr. 05 2014 12:32 AM
Peter Waldvogel from Dandong, PRC

This isn't blue grass. Why can't people in the media understand this? Don't you guys listen to music?

Apr. 04 2014 08:08 PM
Katie from TN

May I please add that the "intertwining" is in triplicate, with Sean's intricate guitar playing and smooth melding vocals included in the mix.

Apr. 04 2014 04:38 PM
Dana from Oshkosh WI

I love Nickel Creek...always have! Gotta love Chris Thile's bed head. LOL

Apr. 04 2014 12:25 PM
Andrew Newby

Has the performance video posted yet? I'm looking, but not finding.

Thanks for so great a recording, so insightful an interview, and for John Schaefer's enthusiastic music appreciation and willingness to avoid the standard in-studio platitudes and stale questions.

Apr. 04 2014 10:48 AM
Mark

Love this group.... Although I consider them "Alternative Folk Music". They are not just an entertaining band, but indeed artists and musicians at the top of their game. When I say artists and musicians, I mean among the best musicians out there, as well as musically creative.

Apr. 03 2014 05:43 PM

The archive will be posted a bit later today. Check back ... or follow us on Twitter (@Soundcheck) or Facebook -- we'll let you know when it's up! Thanks!

Apr. 03 2014 03:28 PM
Susan C. from Kansas

Nickel Creek is fantastic! I love the way they combine traditional bluegrass (less banjo) with other musical styles, and make everything sound fresh, creative, and new.

Apr. 03 2014 02:48 PM
Matt

Just listened, that was so much fun! Will a recording of it be available later?

Apr. 03 2014 02:43 PM

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