Sara Watkins – Self Titled

By Jim Welby

(Nonesuch – B001SZ293C- Vinyl, B001L5J5CW – CD)

Review by exclusively for Analog Audio of Minnesota

I was not a Nickel Creek fan (out of ignorance – I have heard of them, but never heard them), but I love the Punch Brothers.  This debut by another Nickel Creek alum was released in 2009.  When I first put this on, it sounded like just another anonymous angel voiced alt-country gal, but on repeated listens it took on more character.

This album is a bit of calling card for Sara’s talents: traditional country, pop country, alt-country, and bluegrass instrumentals (Sara is a multi-string talent, most famous for the fiddle).  As she presents each style she takes on unique voices, from a pure soprano like a late 60s Joni Mitchell to a more contemporary breathy Norah Jones.  Her voice and phrasing are very impressive. This is very well recorded album with well-balanced arrangements – every instrument is clean, dry and present.

As talented as Sara Watkins clearly is and as well performed as this album is, it did not resonate with me.  I should like this album: I have an affinity for female vocalist, I like country in it various flavors, and I like cleanly presented acoustic string instruments.  I gave this album a fair chance, but unfortunately I find it unremarkable.  Sara’s voice and the recording are intriguing enough that I would be interested in checking out her 2012 release and the Nickel Creek back catalog.