Sunday Morning Music: Nickel Creek
by Cat Johnson
Nickel Creek has always been something special. Formed in 1989 by siblings Sean and Sara Watkins along with Chris Thile, the group was a sign of big things to come in the bluegrass world. All proficient young players, the trio went on to establish itself as one of the standouts of the contemporary bluegrass world with its fun-loving but insightful take on matters of love, hardship and death.
The group’s latest release, A Dotted Line, however, sees it moving away from easy bluegrass, or even newgrass classification. The album, which is the group’s first since an “indefinite hiatus” in 2007, incorporates elements of pop and rock early on, then drifts off into experimental territory—this is, I’m assuming due in large part to Thile’s influence as it sounds like it could be on a Punch Brothers album. It’s not until halfway through the album the we hit something that could be easily labeled bluegrass. But, this is not a bad thing, at all. It’s been exciting to watch the group grow up and transform, taking different paths as their personal styles evolve.
For the Nickel Creek faithful, this is a nice addition to the group’s catalog. For those new to the group, if you want a bluegrass album, you’d be better off picking up the self-titled album, but if you want to jump right in to a group of talented, well-seasoned artists who are defying boundary distinctions, this might be just the thing.