25 years of Nickel Creek
This April’s Nickel Creek tour will be the first time the band has played together since the conclusion of the “Farewell (For Now)” tour in November 2007. The album they will be supporting, “A Dotted Line,” is their first since the release of “Why Should the Fire Die?” nine years ago. Why now? This year marks a remarkable 25 years since the band first played together at a pizza place in 1989.
Over the course of their career, Nickel Creek evolved from their traditional bluegrass roots to define the sound of modern progressive bluegrass and folk music. Their fourth album “This Side” won a Grammy in 2002, and this year’s offering may just win them a second.
Despite the parenthetical “for now” in the name of their last tour, it seems everyone but the band is labeling this as a reunion, which carries some baggage with it. Even with the lengthy hiatus, it sounds like Chris Thile and siblings Sean and Sara Watkins never stopped playing together.
“A Dotted Line” finds the band extremely capable and comfortable, picking up right where they left off seven years ago. There is no sense of trying to lure fans back in or cater to critics’ expectations of what a Nickel Creek “reunion” should sound like.
But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot for fans to enjoy here, on an album that explores everything this band is capable of. From the bluegrass instrumental “Elephant in the Corn” to the upbeat, pop-rock of “You Don’t Know What’s Going On,” the band displays not only how well they can play, but how well they can adapt their playing to fit the stylistic tendencies of each particular song. They even manage to make “Hayloft,” a song by alternative rock band Mother Mother, sound right at home next to the more traditional “21st of May.”
The common thread holding these somewhat disparate songs together is the strength of each player’s voice, not only on their instruments, but as singers too. Sara Watkins brings a crisp, clear vocal to the lead single “Destination,” while her brother Sean provides the more traditional bluegrass vocal sound across the album.
Then there’s Chris Thile, whose vocal has a certain swagger that wouldn’t be out of place on an indie rock record. Individually and in harmony, Nickel Creek’s voices will draw you in with their warmth, and keep you comfortable as they explore a variety of different musical territories.
The band’s openness to different styles and sounds has resulted in some truly incredible moments on “A Dotted Line.” “You Don’t Know What’s Going On” is an energetic three-minute romp with some dense harmonies and the opening of “Where is Love Now” is so gorgeous it might melt your speakers. With an album so strong, and tour dates scheduled through August, let’s hope we don’t have to wait another seven years to hear more from Nickel Creek.
4 stars out of 5.
DOWNLOAD NOW: “You Don’t Know What’s Going On”