Nickel Creek is a of (primarily) musical whiz kids. Three of its four members are under 23. Two are siblings, Sara Watkins (19) on fiddle and vocals, and Sean Watkins (22) on guitar, mandolin, and vocals.
The other two are father and son. Chris Thile (19) plays mandolin, bouzouki, banjo, and vocals, while his father, Scott (42), plays bass.
While Nickel Creek’s members are well-schooled in bluegrass essentials, their music is not straight-up traditional stuff. Instead, it shows strong Celtic, contemporary pop, swing jazz, hard bop, and classical influences. The result is what could best be called modern acoustic-based semi-traditional pop. In addition to several covers, like “Ode to a Butterfly” (which will have mandolinists jaws dropping), there are several strong originals.
Alison Krauss produced this CD and it sounds at least as good as any huge-budget “platinum-bound” Nashville effort, maybe better.
It’s tough for old dogs to listen to this without pangs of remorse. It’s a bit like watching a 13-year-old gymnast at the Olympics; not only do you marvel at the physical prowess, but you wonder how much better they can get, how life will temper their art, and how their lives will turn out. Nickel Creek’s members seem to have an above-average grasp of musical history. I can only ruminate on how life will temper their music. Wherever they end up, this CD demonstrates Nickel Creek’s members have a head start over mere mortal musicians. See http://www.nickel creek.com.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s July ’00 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.