Nickel Creek fiddler goes solo
Sara Watkins is a fine fiddler and guitar player—as tenure in Nickel Creek demands—but as a vocalist she might be even more compelling. Her voice is lush, warm and perfectly controlled, and she puts it to good use on her debut solo album. Singing about a lost love whose ghost haunts even the cupboards of her home, she slays on tearjerker “All This Time,” and later she gives Tom Waits’ homesick travelogue “Pony” a fittingly cinematic scope. Producer John Paul Jones (yes, of Led Zeppelin fame) leaves quiet spaces in songs like “My Friend” and “Bygones” that provide an elegantly spare backdrop for Watkins’ voice. She may not quite have the vocal calluses to convey the grit of John Hartford’s “Long Hot Summer Days” or the impish irony to put the necessary wink in Davíd Garza’s “Too Much,” but those are rare misses on an otherwise assured debut.