I’ve been a fan of Nickel Creek since before there was a Nickelback to mistake their name for. Seriously, curse all you people for thinking I might confuse quality hybrid bluegrass with, well, whatever it is that Nickelback does…all I know is it all sounds the same. But I digress.
I think Sean Watkins may be one of the most underrated pickers in the bluegrass community today. I mean, the guy is in a band with a gal with one of the most gorgeous and unique voices in the business, who happens to be a killer fiddle and Jesus, I mean Chris Thile. Sorry, but the man works miracles with a mandolin. It would be easy to be overshadowed in that trio, but Sean never is. He adds so much to the group and everyone that he plays with both with his guitar and vocal work and is a great songwriter to boot. I am super happy that he has a new solo project out!
‘All I Do is Lie” was recorded on a one year track starting in summer of 2012 and will see its actual release on July 1st. So let’s take a listen…
As you might imagine, it’s very guitar driven and Watkins’ youthful, friendly and versatile vocal is at the core of the songs with some nice flourishes to add quite a bit of color. His utilization of simple phrases in a very persuasive, compelling manner is also a staple that is not lost on this record. He tells stories that you can follow, mostly relationship related, it’s just stuff that real people can relate to. As a songwriter Sean is very authentic, honest and sincere, putting himself out there in a vulnerable state that is always a win in my book. Something I not only relate to, but also have a great respect for.
Sonically, the record focuses on traditional folk-rock kind of arrangements. Multiple guitar parts, drums, bass, and some additional instrumentation to season it nicely. The excellent guitar work is highlighted by all of this. This isn’t a bluegrass romper or a pickathon, but has very folk rooted elements.
“Made For TV Movie” has a little country swagger to it as it kicks in. It’s one of the most lyrically poignant (but not too serious) songs on the track with some great allusions and word play comparing a relationship to the movies (of the made for TV nature…thus insinuating, not a great one).
We were written in haste / We were never gonna join the race
Cause we’re a made for TV movie
“This Will End in Tears” has a The Band kind of a vibe to it. It kicks in with that Danko bass thumping and with a Levon back-beat. Great harmonies, and a kind of head nodding, toe tapping movement to the song.
“The God You Serve” kicks off with one of those incredible guitar melody lines that I feel defines much of Sean’s playing. The acoustic guitar dominants most of the first portion of the song and then some nice organ is laid in giving the track some nice depth. Great harmonies, great writing, great tune.
Overall the songs have that slight edge that cuts a little deep, but Watkins manages to make them approachable and a bit more digestible with his poise and writing style. Quite an accomplishment. The album has a great sonic range and variety in its sounds. Not too many songs are two mid or low tempo, I flows well, and his voice and guitar playing are always enjoyable to listen to.
I am really digging the latest from Mr. Watkins. Keep them coming Sean, keep them coming!
Check out Sean online at: http://seanwatkins.com/