Sunday, January 23, 2011

BlueGrass for the 21st Century

Ever notice how the stuff you listen to
has so much to do with who your friends are
(or who you’d like your friends to be),
you almost wonder if you’d like music at all,
if left to yourself?
if you had no friends,
would what you call music
instead consist of just a bunch of random, everyday sounds
strung together?

(“Bip, Bop, Doodle-y-Bop, Zip, Buzz, Wow!”
Yay, Music!)
Or is that just me?

Well, however it is,
I found out about Nickel Creek
first through a friend I’d only met a month before
(but isn’t that how life is in New York?)
and he’d heard about Nickel Creek
because of friends he’d made
at the college he’d went to
in southern California.
And then another friend of mine
(who’s really more like a friend of a friend,
though we are friends on facebook, so I guess that’s official)
asked me just this past week if I’d heard of Nickel Creek.
And so, even though I feel like there’s so much more to discover about the band,
I felt I had to write a short post about them.
But, trust me,
you’ll hear about them again.

Nickel Creek, in brief,
is Chris Thile (mandolin), Sara Watkins (fiddle), and Sean Watkins (guitar).

Yeah, Sara and Sean are brothers, so they’re pretty tight.
And they’re all music prodigies, so, yeah, they’re talented.
But did you know that the trio’s been playing and singing together since before they were even teens (or pre-teen, in Sara’s case)?!  They’d been playing together for, like, 11 years before they even debuted with their first real CD! ridiculous.

[I should probably note:
Since 2007, the band’s actually been on hiatus,
And Chris, Sara, and Sean have been working independently, or collaboratively, in new and different ways. Like, forming the band Punch Brothers, and/or WPA (a band I like particularly for the historical connection and will review at a later date), and then Sara Watkins recently hosted Prairie Home Companion, which was pretty cool (if you like that sort of thing). And now she’s touring with the Decemberists to promote her first solo album, which came out in 2009.
But despite all this (or maybe because of it), their popularity as a Nickel Creek threesome continues to grow. And that’s why I’d heard of them.]

So, enough about their credentials,
What Does Their Music Sound Like?
Well, of course, I’d recommend listening to them for yourself. (“Smoothie Song” is a good place to start, though I don’t get the title.)
But, if somehow I’ve still held your attention, and/or you’d like help finding words to describe your new fascination with these
soothing-sounding, instrumental, rooted-in-bluegrass, but obviously innovative (and therefore “contemporaneously-folk” and “indie” too) musician-friends,

here are some things I’ve found written elsewhere
(because just as I wouldn’t have heard about Nickel Creek without my friends, without ‘web friends’ like these people I wouldn’t be able to describe very well what the band sounds like.)
                            about them:
A “lilting, ethereal fusion of bluegrass, Celtic, modern folk, and even classical influences.”  (That was “Bob Allen” giving them a review on
Eric Shea (at Rhapsody) has described the instrumental weaving of their music better than I ever could have:
“Mandolin, Greek bouzouki, fiddle, banjo, upright bass, acoustic and electric guitars come together to create unique sonic layering...seemingly created in some pastoral sound laboratory.”
And here’s a nice list of emotive descriptors from AllMusic :
  • Organic
  • Earnest
  • Amiable/Good-Natured
It’s that last description -- Good-Natured -- that I think sums Nickel Creek up best. In fact, listening to them even now, I get an image in my mind:

Lounging around a warm camp fire
with laughing, smiling friends,
drinking deliciously home-brewed coffee,
and making music -- however defined.

What images do you all get, when you listen to these neobluegrass wonders?

1 comment:

  1. Nickel Creek is great! Love their stuff. Nice post.