Sara Watkins (above, performing “Move Me” for Rolling Stone) is perhaps best known as the fiddler in the acoustic progressive-bluegrass band Nickel Creek, alongside her brother, Sean, and Chris Thile. She’s also done time as a percussionist with the Decemberists, but sometimes the multi-instrumentalist likes to go it alone, exploring other kinds of music—and in doing so, revealing herself to be a a terrific singer and an accomplished songwriter. Her third solo album, Young in All the Wrong Ways (stream it below), came out this past July. AllMusic says it accentuates “steady, almost thundering, rock rhythms, anxious guitars, and also delicately structured ballads that function as tonic to the bold incidents elsewhere. It’s a brief album, ten songs lasting no longer than 41 minutes, but it feels deep due to its nicely shifting sounds and styles, not to mention the sense that Watkins is setting into her own skin here.” See her tomorrow night at The Bowery Ballroom. Harpist and singer Mikaela Davis opens the show.
Tag Archives: Sara Watkins
Sara Watkins – Rough Trade NYC – June 8, 2016
Sara Watkins was a Grammy winner before she could legally drink. As a member of the revered band Nickel Creek, she along with brother Sean and mandolinist Chris Thile created a strong and feverish fan base that has continued to follow them each since their break back in 2006. Last year they reunited for a tour, but for the most part Watkins has remained busy playing with the Decemberists, anchoring the Watkins Family Hour with Sean, forming the girl group I’m with Her with Sarah Jarosz and Aoife O’Donovan—and of course, her own solo effort.
Ahead of the release of her latest album, Young in All the Wrong Ways, Watkins hit the stage at Rough Trade NYC last night in a leopard top beneath a gold lamé jacket, opening a cappella before settling on “Miss My Kisses” and the David Garza–penned “Too Much.” Following the older pieces, Watkins offered newer material, beginning with her soon-to-be released record’s title track and the desert-inspired “Like New Year’s Day.” Watkins later took to the stage solo, armed with the mightiest of instruments, the ukulele, to enchant fans with the lullabylike “You and Me” and delighted Nickel Creek followers with the first song she ever wrote on diminutive strings, “Anthony.”
The set’s tempo quickly changed as the audience stomped and sang along to a cover of John Hartford’s “Long Hot Summer Days.” I was holding out a little hope throughout the night for some surprise guests, like her I’m with Her gals. They reunited only the night before after all. Alas, they were not there, but somehow I wasn’t disappointed because it reinforced the talent Watkins is on her own, which was punctuated by a pair from the forthcoming release, the whispery “Without a Word” and the rocking “Move Me.” A fitting fiddle piece led the encore before she hushed the crowd with the sweet “Tenderhearted.” —Sharlene Chiu
Tags: Aoife O’Donovan, Bowery Ballroom, Brooklyn, Chris Thile, David Garza, I’m with Her, John Hartford, Live Music, Music, New York City, Nickel Creek, Review, Rough Trade NYC, Sara Watkins, Sarah Jarosz, Sean Watkins, the Decemberists, Watkins Family Hour, Williamsburg, Young in All the Wrong Ways
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Sarah Jarosz – The Bowery Ballroom – June 27, 2016
Sarah Jarosz’s superb new album is called Undercurrent, which, perhaps, you already knew because of all the critical praise it’s received. The LP is a gorgeous document—something you yield to, swooning over her deeply affecting soprano—and simply great in how its songs come across complete, but not overadorned. More pronounced, less intimate arrangements would be needed if the songs couldn’t stand on their own, but whoa, can they: Jarosz, at 25, sounds more knowing, worldly and pragmatic than many accomplished folk singers twice her age. Brilliantly, she can also transfer this honest, lived-in vibe to the stage, and did during a nourishing show at The Bowery Ballroom last night.
Undercurrent material figured heavily in a set that unspooled, song by song—visits with an excited but weary mind, narrating stories like “Lost Dog,” “Take Another Turn” (with the line “What does it mean to be lonely?”), “Everything to Hide” and the gently swampy “Back of My Mind.” It’s accurate to call these songs and older Jarosz gems, like “Build Me Up from Bones,” country-rubbed folk, with just enough blues and New York City noir in there to keep them from sounding old-timey. Here, too, were they unadorned—guitars and bass, mostly, in a trio format, and dressed up only by Jarosz’s own voice. As a performer, she seems self-aware, sure of her talents and sure of not wanting to gild the lily.
Well, OK, even Jarosz can’t argue with a bit of lily-gilding: Late in the show, she summoned her I’m with Her bandmates, Sara Watkins and Aoife O’Donovan, and for a few minutes, we were transported back to an equally magical show from December 2015, at this same venue, with that same trio of dazzlingly talented female folkies, each wanting to share the stage, each performer’s individual charisma making that seem impossible to do, until they expertly balanced one another. Their delivery of Tom Waits’ “Come On Up to the House”—one of Jarosz’s best covers—at first felt like a visit from an entirely different concert, and then felt of a piece with the rest of the set, another visit that you come away from learning more than what you’ve brought to it. We’ll be hearing more from Jarosz, from I’m with Her, from every interesting possibility these combinations of musicians seem to yield. And possibly soon: Sara Watkins is at Rough Trade NYC tonight. Just saying. —Chad Berndtson | @Cberndtson
Tags: Aoife O’Donovan, Bowery Ballroom, Chad Berndtson, I’m with Her, Live Music, Lower East Side, Music, New York City, Rough Trade NYC, Sara Watkins, Sarah Jarosz, Tom Waits, Undercurrent
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As her show began last night at Mercury Lounge, Sara Watkins mentioned that it was only her fourth time as a solo headliner ever. “And it’s in New York of all places,” she continued, “Which is just…fantastic.” Though no stranger to performing (Watkins is also a member of Nickel Creek), fantastic is not necessarily the word one expects to hear in reference to a show for New York City’s famously fickle crowds.
Watkins began on a high note, taking the stage with her band and stomping out a beat. Cradling her fiddle, she effortlessly launched into a rousing bluegrass number. With skills like that, Watkins deserves to feel fantastic. Throughout the show, her powerful vocals highlighted songs from her debut solo album, Sara Watkins, and a selection of cover songs by artists both traditional (John Hartford, Jimmie Rogers) and contemporary (Tom Waits, Jon Brion). Watkins’ songwriting is strong and the emotion behind her lyrics is tangible. The reflective “All This Time,” the album’s opening track, was especially striking live, including the crushingly frank and effective line: “I’m finally breaking it off/with your memory.”
As the set wound down, guitarist (and brother) Sean Watkins plucked a very familiar intro: It was Radiohead’s “No Surprises.” Sara’s plaintive rendition was as heart wrenching as the original. To her great testament, she manages to take a song so utterly distinctive and make it her own. But given the strength of her show, this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. —Alena Kastin
If you’ve ever listened to Nickel Creek, you already know Sara Watkins plays a mean fiddle. But as she’s branched out on her own, Watkins has revealed herself to be an accomplished songwriter and a terrific singer. Her very first solo album, Sara Watkins, released earlier this month, was produced by none other than legendary Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones. Want to have a happy Wednesday? Then check out Sara Watkins tonight at Mercury Lounge. Here, she performs “Too Much.”