Nickel Creek consists of Sean Watkins (guitar/vocals), Sara Watkins (fiddle/vocals) and Chris Thile (mandolin/bouzoki/banjo/vocals). The three kids (Sara and Sean are brother/sister) started playing togeather in 1989 in San Diego, Sara and Chris were 8, Sean was 12. When they first started out Chris's father, Scott, joined them on bass.
The three friends soon developed a reputation as excellent musicians while touring on the festival circuit during the 90's. Chris Thile recorded two albums during this time span 1994's Leading Off... and 1997's Stealing Second. In 1998, with help from Alisson Krauss, they landed a record deal with the roots label, Sugar Hill. They subsequently released thier debut album, Nickel Creek in 2000. After the release, Scott retired from the band.
Though Nickel Creek is a very bluegrass oriented album, there are elements of Jazz, Classical, and Rock mixed in with it. The album's lyrics also depart from the traditional bluegrass style..."Then we started writing songs. An honesty issue arose at that point: Like, we probably shouldn't necessarily write songs set back in the hills about moonshine and coal-miners," says Thile. The albums lyrics (and infact all of the band's lyrics) instead deal with issues that seem more normal for teenagers in America. However, they don't focus solely on angst or love and many of their songs branch out into the realm of fantasy or history. Thier song writing remains fresh and is easy listening, not getting old even after many repitions.
However, in listening to the band, it is obvious that their strength lies not in their lyrics or singing, (though none of the three are bad singers, their voices are not classically good, instead fitting in with the songs feel) it becomes rather obvious that the three are all phenomenal musicians. Many of the songs on the album are instrumentals that flow perfectly, the three instruments blending well.
In 2001 both Thile and Sean Watkins released solo albums, Not all who Wander are Lost and Let It Fall respectively. I have never heard either of the albums, (though Let It Fall is pretty high on my to buy list) so I can't comment on them directly.
Their sophomore effort, This Side, was released in 2002. It debuted in the top 20 on the pop charts and hit #2 on the country charts. This album is, if possible, even more electic than their previous one. The second track on the album is a cover of Pavement's "Spit on a Stranger", an odd cover for a bluegrass/folk band to be sure. However strange it may be, the band pulls it off beautifully. Their arrangement of the traditional song "House Carpenter" is wonderfully folky and a high point of the album. This Side won a Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Album in early 2003, after which Sean issued his second solo album, 26 Miles.
In 2005 they released thier 3rd album Why Should The Fire Die. While still a good album, it departs from thier bluegrass roots even more than the other two albums did. It was nominated for a Grammy this year in the "Best Contemporary Folk Album" category.
While the studio albums are good, the band's improvisational strengths play directly into their exremely excellent live preformances. If you ever get a chance to see them, do it. They don't allow trading of taped shows, so I have nothing in that regard to share with anyone. However, I've seen them live and they are excellent. Well worth checking out.
note: They are doing a UK tour this month, so if you are on that side of the pond GO AND SEE THEM!!!!!!!!!!
Songs to check out: "Lighthouse's Tale" "House of Tom Bobadil" "House Carpenter" "Sabra Girl" "This Side" "Green and Gray" "Somebody More Like You"
Albums: well, they only have three, so you should get them all The best is Nickel Creek then This Side then Why Should The Fire Die. That's not to say that any of their albums are bad, that's just my personal preference of order. It should also be noted that I own all their albums.
sources for this post include Nickelcreek.com and allmusic.com
Next week: my all time favorite band, Leftover Salmon
Edited by matt_theripper, 05 February 2006 - 01:34 PM.