Returning for their first album in nine years, Nickel Creek is back in all its forward-thinking, postmodern-bluegrass glory, led by mandolin virtuoso Chris Thile, guitarist Sean Watkins, and violinist Sara Watkins. This is their seventh album, pushing the trio’s artistry to greater heights while maintaining their signature sound.
Celebrants’ 18 tracks tell a story about love, friendship, dissonance, and the threads that connect humanity. Fiery acoustic guitar merges with intelligent mandolin and violin, supporting impassioned singing and rich harmonies. Thile and the Watkins siblings are in rare form as they perform inspirational compositions with harmonic breadth, excellent use of silence, and compositions that make the listener feel. Produced by Eric Valentine, the album also includes bassist Mike Elizondo.
“Strangers” is a fusion of Americana, folk, melodious melodies, harmony, and counterpoint. Banjo and violin dip and weave, then escalate into a poetic patchwork of old-world rural vistas and melancholia. Sara’s playing is flawless as her voice dips in and out of Thile’s clear, angelic vocals. And all this as Sean strums the acoustic with power and authority (“Going Out…”) and renders chord and arpeggiation work for days, supporting a sublime and joyous musical experience.
This article originally appeared in VG’s May 2023 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.