First Appeared at The Music Box, September 2002, Volume 9, #9
Written by John Metzger
Without question, Nickel Creek is the most promising bluegrass band to come along in quite some time. Though the trio of musicians that compose the group are barely in their twenties, they’ve been performing together for twelve years. And within the sparkling interplay of Chris Thile and siblings Sean and Sara Watkins, it definitely shows. Purists, no doubt, will balk at the ensemble’s affinity for melding everything from jazz to pop to classical with traditional bluegrass fare. But after peeling back the layers, Nickel Creek exudes the type of adept chops and alchemically diaphanous communication that is reminiscent of bluegrass maestros such as the Del McCoury Band and Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys.
On its sophomore effort This Side, Nickel Creek strays even further from pure bluegrass into the pop/folk realm with an eye towards alternative rock, undoubtedly in an attempt to both broaden its horizons as well as draw in a new generation of fans. The group splendidly embraces Pavement’s Spit on a Stranger, turning it from an indie-rock anthem into a playful blend of Jerry Jeff Walker and The Beatles, while tracks such as Young and Brand New Sidewalk serve as a bridge between Glen Phillips and Glenn Tilbrook. As a result, This Side sounds like a younger version of Alison Krauss + Union Station, which isn’t all that surprising since Krauss has produced both of Nickel Creek’s albums. Although the group has yet to unearth its masterpiece, one gets the sense that it’s now sitting just beyond the horizon. ½
45th Annual Grammy Award Winner:
Best Contemporary Folk Album
This Side is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
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