Sara Watkins, Singer Songwriter

Sara Watkins – Bio, Singer Songwriter (ARCHIVED)    

The 27-year-old singer-songwriter and fiddle player spent nearly two decades—all of her teenage and young adult life—as one-third of Nickel Creek, the Grammy Award–winning acoustic trio that used contemporary bluegrass as a starting point for its no-genre-barred sound. Along the way, she’s hinted at her desire to do a project of her own and even organized some exploratory sessions in Los Angeles about six years ago.

Now, with Nickel Creek on indefinite hiatus, she is releasing her self-titled solo disc, recorded in Los Angeles and Nashville and produced by former Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones. It features an impressively wide range of backing players and old friends, including itinerant alt-country duo Gillian Welch and Dave Rawling, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers keyboardist Benmont Tench, Elvis Costello drummer Pete Thomas; fellow travelers from the bluegrass world like Tim O’Brien, Chris Eldridge, Ronnie McCoury and Rayna Gellert; and her Nickel Creek bandmates.

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Watkins’ debut has an air of easygoing virtuosity. She displays her skill as a multi-instrumentalist, playing the guitar and ukulele as well as the fiddle, and proves herself to be just as versatile, and breathtakingly mature, as a vocalist. Watkins segues gracefully from the lighthearted country and western swing of Jimmie Rodger’s “Any Old Time,” to the world-weariness and spiritual yearning of Norman Blake’s “Lord Won’t You Help Me,” to the romantic wistfulness of Jon Brion’s “Same Mistake.” Though she still considers herself a neophyte as a songwriter, her own work is as evocative as any of the material she’s chosen to cover. Her wordless fiddle tunes are exuberant, foot-stomping pieces, while the songs for which she wrote both music and lyrics have a heart-meltingly lovelorn quality. There’s honesty and empathy on tracks like the sweetly soulful “My Friend,” the brooding “Bygones,” and the rueful album closer, “Where Will You Be.” Watkins is newly, and very happily, married, but she knows how to channel the plaintive emotions of classic country and timeless pop in her own work.

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