Nickel Creek

Nickel Creek
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Like many bands, the three southern Californians of Nickel Creek have their compelling levels of mystery. But sometimes they still get asked to describe their music. "When I meet someone on a plane, someone who sees the instrument and wants to know what I do," says mandolinist Chris Thile, "I always say, 'It's acoustic." Guitarist Sean Watkins extols the freedom a trio can provide. "Because we knew each other so well musically as well as personally, our songs can take different shapes live without too much thought -- and it's really nice to have three versatile instruments when we leave the page." Violinist Sara Watkins will sum things up. "We use a lot of detailed arrangements, but there is also room for improvisation. I think of us as a sort of high-energy chamber band." On Why Should the Fire Die?, Nickel Creek are like any other band—any other band who manage to write, play, and sing a commanding album. It is their third collection for Sugar Hill Records, following 2002's This Side and 2000's eponymous debut. It was recorded in Los Angeles with producers Eric Valentine (who has overseen projects for Smashmouth and Queens of the Stone Age) and Tony Berg. Although the music bursts with contemporary nerve, the recording sessions drew on the timeless power of classic analog equipment, vintage reverb, and single-stereo microphones. The result is a newly unignorable Nickel Creek who fuse and personalize a wide array of styles with uncommon vigor and élan. "We figured out some things that we have to offer," Thile says, "and we're worrying much less about needing to be any particular kind of band except the one that we are right now." "We've worked a long time, beginning in bluegrass," Sean Watkins says. "It provided us with great base-levels to build on." "We'd been listening for years to musicians, from Bela Fleck to the Beatles, that pushed envelopes," says Thile. "We wanted to be challenged. Then we started writing songs. An honesty issue arose at that point: Like, we probably shouldn't necessarily write songs set back in the hills about moonshine and coal-miners." The fourteen songs on Why Should the Fire Die? occur in an inescapably modern world where people show up only later to walk away, where hearts break and heal, events shift from dodgy to better to somewhere in between, and where dizzying amounts of music fly in and out of the soundtracks of people's alternately frazzled and peaceful lives. Still, Nickel Creek aren't style collectors. They integrate. "We're not genre-hoppers," Thile says. "We take no pride in just haphazardly throwing together genres that haven't met before. 'Let's play bluegrass and reggae! Both have a lot of backbeat!' We don't want to do that. If we're going to blend genres, we'd like it to be genre soup, where you can't see what's in it-as opposed to genre stew, where everything is very defined." On some songs-such as the rollicking album opener "When in Rome," the tightly-wound "Best of Luck," and "Helena," a gripping dramatization of mounting romantic disappointment that builds with real raw sonic youth—Nickel Creek seize on their new instrumental coinages with uncommon flash and movement. The music is both visceral and virtuosic, intimate and gestural. "Helena," Thile says, "builds massively, because this character is deteriorating before your eyes." Other songs, such as "Somebody More like You," which explores a magnetic connection between acoustic and techno rhythms, or the questing title tune and "Doubting Thomas," take more balladic tacks. Near the middle of Why Should the Fire Die?, Sara Watkins sings a version of Bob Dylan's classic ballad "Tomorrow Is a Long Time," imparting with her tonal alternations of breathiness and security twin auras of the contemporary and the ageless. Similarly, on pieces such as the Celtic-flavored "Scotch & Chocolate" and the happily mountainesque "Stumptown," Nickel Creek jam on instrumentals akin to what they played as kids at festival and contests. These excursions, Thile says, "feel like home, like touching base." Sara Watkins agrees. "They incorporate much of what we grew up loving about instrumental music and arrangement." Sometimes songs steal or stalk into new places. "We spent a lot of time last year writing together as band," Sean Watkins says. "We'd shack up, try to come up with stuff. A lot of times it was from scratch; other times it was from pieces on older songs we'd had. From there, we pooled everything together." In "Can't Complain," a seriously deluded character guesses that he and his ultimately lost girlfriend "kidnapped each other's minds;" the song, Thile says, "comes from an apathetic guy whose comfort with his own behavior becomes markedly uncomfortable for the listener." The Thile-Watkins composition "Eveline" explores both irregular tunings and a James Joyce short story. Other times the band treat a song that originated from one member, such as on Sara Watkins' "Anthony," a personal plaint with elegant drifts of old theater music, and "Jealous of the Moon," an hypnotically sung country waltz with a bitter sweetheart of a chorus, written by Thile with Gary Louris of the Jayhawks. The song is about fear, "rivers of lies," and the desperate desire to fly. It is an affecting example of, as Thile puts it, "amplifying tiny little emotions or inclinations, of seeing just how far they might go." "I think a definitive aspect of this record was our willingness to let our ideas be edited by each other," Sean Watkins says. "It resulted in a CD that we feel is an honest representation of who we are right now as a band. "What sets this record apart in our minds," Thile says, "is that we're doing things now that are definite parts of our band, that are totally within character. We're trying to push ourselves to our limits, not into a place where we feel like we're just sort of gingerly stepping around because we're not sure where we are." "We had a wonderful time working hard on this record," says Sara Watkins. "We tried to suit each song well by being aware of and leaving room for each other." Nickel Creek indeed leave room on 'Why Should the Fire Die?' They leave room for the mesmerizing.
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01/11/2007 - Record Label Moves On - Read More
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Average Rating : 4.8              Total Reviews: 10

Nickel Creek  07/31/2007            
please get back together!!!!!
Nickel Creek  07/14/2005            
Unless an album is simply a masterpiece it will have highs and lows. This album really sets a very high standard to every song which makes the highs of the album hard to discern as excellent above the rest. It is such an easy album to get lost in, with a few songs which keep you clicking the rewind button over and over. Opening with "When in Rome," I was brought into the CD immediately by the uptempo swagger of the song and the sheer tightness of the tune. As always the harmonies are flawless, wild and well blended. Another of the distinguished highpoints of the album is "Helena," having an emotional and musical build which climaxes in a highly anticipated drum entrance. Following "When in Rome" is "Someone Like You" which seems to correlate with "Helena" lyrics-wise with a bitter post-separation dread. These songs truly are the highlights of the album for me. The slower songs are mostly "sweet" musically with the exception of "Eveline" with has a very distinctive heavy tone which undoubtably gives the entire song a very eerie overtone. In addition to "Eveline," "Can't Complain" carries a unique electronic element not found elsewhere in the album. It is very slight but still a noticeable portion of the album which spices up the otherwise organic sound. The brief story "Anthony" is also a unique portion of the album carrying a slightly 1920's tune with a repetitive riff to accent the repetitive 'Anthony's heard throughout. As if to appease my love for instrumentals, Scotch and Chocolate fills the void with a very fiery breakout and finish. The instruments are extremely tight and it truly reveals the unique quilt of musicianship that is Nickel Creek. The lowest point of the album has to be "Best of Luck" simply because it sounds like an attempt to write inside of a genre. The overprocessed, clicheed female vocals along with the chorus' predictable melody only serve to degrade from the album. It isn't a bad song, but truly could have been omitted from what is otherwise an excellent album. Those who value the hard right and left guitar/mandolin with center violin balance of Nickel Creek will be delighted at first listen. With the similar panning of the voices it literally feels like you are sitting at a campfire with the Sean Sara and Chris.
Nickel Creek  04/21/2004            
Great Music!! I love it!!!!!!!!!!
Nickel Creek  01/24/2004            
Rudy Roesken
Awesome. Stunning. These musicians have opened up an entirely new realm of newgrass!
Nickel Creek  11/19/2003            
Any chance you get to see this band live, go. They are amazing. A note on Chris: anyone who can rock on a mandolin is incredible. I had listened to them for a couple of years, and I finally got to see them this year at the Wiltern in L.A. and it was truly awe-inspiring.
Nickel Creek  07/22/2003            
Jarod Robertson
This group still continues to astound me.I started listening to them a few years back and I haven't stopped.....Literally.I love the melodies but I think I enjoy the vocals even more.I wish I had a chance to meet them and tell them what a difference they have made in my life.I would recommend their albums to anyone and everyone.
Nickel Creek  06/06/2002            
They are so great! I absolutely love "When You Come Back Down"...its a beautiful and sweet/romantic song, the fiddle, mandolin, violin...everything is so awesome and each adds that special touch...i love the lead singer's voice..its soft and sweet and makes everything sound like a lullaby...AWESOME!!!!
Nickel Creek  01/18/2002            
The Fox
The Fox
Nickel Creek  08/14/2001            
Pat from S.A.
Great Cd. I bought it a long time ago when I just happened to catch their song on CMT. I still listen to it all the time. The instrumental songs are great and the lyrics for the other songs are very moving. These guys are really talented. I suggest you pick this one up.
Nickel Creek  08/06/2001            
Roland Holder
It's bluegrass without the twang. The lyrical maturity and instrumental virtuosity of this young band leave experienced musicians twice their age wide-eyed in amazement. Chris Thile's lightning-quick mandolin alone is enough reason to buy this CD. Combined with Sara Watkins' angelic voice and violin, Sean Watkins' guitar, and haunting, ethereal melodies, Nickel Creek has found a way to make bluegrass music universally appealing, perhaps even "cool" again.
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