Reasons Why (The Very Best)
First Appeared in The Music Box, October 2007, Volume 14, #10
Written by Kirk deCordova
Sun October 7, 2007, 06:00 AM CDT
For years, Nickel Creek has been playing a style of progressive bluegrass that is all its own. With its self-titled debut, the outfit quickly won accolades for its traditional approach, but as it progressed through This Side and Why Should the Fire Die?, its maturity led it to adopt an edgier, pop-oriented sound. On its recent, two-disc career retrospective Reasons Why (The Very Best), fans get a glimpse at the full range of Nickel Creek’s abilities. Compiling material from all three of its studio endeavors, Reasons Why (The Very Best) also features a pair of previously unreleased concert cuts, which highlight how much the band excels in front of an audience. The DVD portion of the package strings together the promotional videos that Nickel Creek has made.
While all of the tracks on Reasons Why (The Very Best) are of high quality, Nickel Creek seems to soar into the bluegrass stratosphere on cuts such as When in Rome, Smoothie Song, and the live finale The Fox. On When in Rome, Chris Thile’s unique vocals and gifted mandolin picking meld with guitarist Sean Watkins’ solid strumming and his sister Sara Watkins’ lively and inspiring fiddling. The result is a performance that is simply incredible, and the accompanying video is even better. Other tracks of note include The Lighthouse’s Tale, a melancholy ballad of love that tragically is lost, and Smoothie Song, a dashing instrumental that demonstrates the masterful and polished musicianship of the band. Without a doubt, skillful playing is the primary draw of Nickel Creek.
Once one has been persuaded by Nickel Creek’s instrumental proficiency, the vocals are the next part of the mix to stand out. The ensemble’s collective singing is impressive by any standard. Thile, in particular, has a rich, versatile voice that works wonders, though Sara Watkins also adds her beautiful articulations to several tracks including the title tune as well as the concert cut You Don’t Have to Move that Mountain. Nickel Creek’s harmonies are well-polished and clear, and they are a delight to the ears. The three performers’ voices blend well together, and they leave the listener satisfied.
In the wake of striking instrumentation and stunning vocals, one also must realize that the songs on Reasons Why (The Very Best) not only are well written, but they also contain thoughtful lyrics. Many of the tracks on the album revolve around the subjects of lost love and decaying relationships. This theme is exhibited on tunes like Helena, Somebody More Like You, and Can’t Complain. The complete mixture of skillful playing, soaring singing, and introspective lyricism turns the trio’s work into a superior, musical experience.
For casual fans of Nickel Creek, Reasons Why (The Very Best) handily delivers the band’s best material, summarizing it concisely. For veteran fans of the outfit, the compilation of the trio’s videos provides enough reason to purchase the set. As the outfits embarks on its hiatus, after completing what very well could be its final concert tour, fans can still listen to the tunes and watch the videos that set Nickel Creek apart from so many other like-minded acts. Although the ensemble might not have made the sort of splash it initially had hoped, the spectacular songs and videos contained on Reasons Why (The Very Best) lucidly provide the argument for why Nickel Creek ought not to call it quits just yet.
Reasons Why (The Very Best) is available from
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2007 The Music Box