Prepare to have you jaw on the way to the floor with this one.
Sid Smith 2009-03-30
As likely to be listening to Wilco as Willie Nelson, Sara Watkins' eclectic credentials as a member of Nickel Creek were never in doubt.
With that band having disappeared under the radar, she steps out with a confident stride with her debut solo release, preserving those broad tastes and good judgement when it comes to choosing a set.
As producer, Led Zeppelin's John Paul Jones ensures there's both fluency and muscularity across the board, consolidating the artistic relationship that began when they toured as part of the Mutual Admiration Society in 2004.
The tenderness of the self-penned My Friend could almost be another instalment of Nickel Creek's Doubting Thomas (from Why Should The Fire Die 2005) with Michael Witcher's sublime dobro articulating that sense of stoic grace in the face of pressure and doubt.
Songs by Tom Waits and relative newcomer David Gazra nestles alongside venerable writers such as Norman Blake and Jimmie Rodgers (the smoochy, pedal-steel kick back of his Any Old Time is a real gem here) underscores that Watkins is working with living, breathing music.
An assured debut that will undoubtedly extend her commercial reach even further, there's an understated approach with no hints of showy grandstanding or cheap-shot appeal. Watkins' time in the spotlight is a triumph with her agile playing and the kind of voice that gives your goosebumps the shivers.
On the moving album closer, her vocals hover above gently murmuring electric guitars, a shimmering, imploring presence. ''When my voice no longer soothes you / Where will we be?'' Prepare to have you jaw on the way to the floor with this one.