Sara, Chris & Sean
Nickel Creek was an American progressive acoustic music trio consisting of Chris Thile (vocals, mandolin) and siblings Sara Watkins (vocals, fiddle) and Sean Watkins (guitar, vocals), with Chris' father Scott playing bass. They were active from 1989–2007. They began as a fairly typical bluegrass group, but by the time of their second major label release This Side
, had branched out in a big
way, forging a musical style that Chris dubbed "progressive folk".
During their tenure, the band recorded five albums:
- Little Cowpoke (1993)
- Here to There (1997)
- Nickel Creek (2000)
- This Side (2002)
- Why Should the Fire Die? (2005)
To say nothing of each members' solo albums and various side projects. They disbanded in 2007 for "an indefinite period of time", so each could focus on a solo career.
This band provides examples of:
- Be Careful What You Wish For: In "House Carpenter", this is a lesson learned the hard way several times.
- Bittersweet Ending: "Brand New Sidewalk" on This Side and the title track on Why Should the Fire Die?
- Breakup Song: "Hanging by a Thread", "Should've Known Better" and several songs on Why Should the Fire Die?
- Celebrity Is Overrated: "Green and Gray".
- Child Prodigy: All three members. At the time of their first performance, Sara and Chris were 8 and 9, respectively. Sean had actually hit double digits(12). The Thiles and Watkins' home-schooled all three due to the many bluegrass festivals they played at during their teenage years.
- The Cover Changes The Gender: Done with Sara's take on Bob Dylan's "Tomorrow Is a Long Time". Interestingly, her take on "Sabra Girl" does not change the gender.
- Cover Version: A great many, often songs by fellow folk/country/bluegrass artists. In later years they had a penchant for left-field covers of pop and alternative rock songs, especially in concert when they would tackle artists such as Radiohead, Wilco, or Britney Spears.
- Creator Breakdown: Why Should the Fire Die? has some elements of this due to several songs being inspired by Chris Thile's divorce.
- Crisis of Faith: "Doubting Thomas".
- Darker and Edgier: Why Should the Fire Die? definitely had more of a cynical mood to it than their earlier albums.
- Downer Ending: "The Lighthouse's Tale", "The Hand Song", and "House Carpenter" all qualify.
- Driven to Suicide: That poor, poor lighthouse keeper.
- Early-Installment Weirdness: Their first two albums were recorded when they were still kids. Needless to say, things changed when Alison Krauss took the band under her wing and they began to come into their own as artists. Nickel Creek was still a fairly straightforward contemporary bluegrass record, but by the time of This Side, they had fully asserted control over their career and the direction of their music.
- Fake-Out Fade-Out: "Can't Complain" combines this with a bit of a Scare Chord effect.
- Friends with Benefits: "Can't Complain" demonstrates why this is easier said than done.
- Hair Decorations: In the Nickel Creek days, Sara was known for wearing parts of her hair in slender braids with beads.
- I'm a Man, I Can't Help It: The protagonist of "Can't Complain" and "Helena" basically uses this as an excuse for his two-timing.
- Instrumentals: And how.
- Last Note Nightmare: An unreleased song, "Lewis", ended up with all three instruments hitting a sudden, dissonant chord, almost as if their instruments had simultaneously broken.
- Line-of-Sight Name: "Smoothie Song" got its name when someone brought the band smoothies while they were playing it.
- Mood Whiplash: In between all the heavy songs of heartache on Why Should the Fire Die?, along come two incredibly perky instrumental tracks: "Scotch & Chocolate" and "Stumptown".
- Mr. Fanservice: Chris and Sean represented this trope quite well, with Sean being the boy next door type and Chris the shy pretty boy.
- Ms. Fanservice: Between Nickel Creek and This Side, Sara moved from wearing long dresses to tight shirts and blue jeans.
- Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly: Calling even their self-titled major label debut "bluegrass" is a stretch. They grew increasingly difficult to classify as the years went on.
- One Woman Song: "Eveline", "Helena", and an inversion in "Anthony", written and sung by Sara.
- The Perfectionist: Why the central character in "Green and Gray" hates himself despite having a huge, adoring audience.
- Step Up to the Microphone: Chris and Sara get the lion's share of lead vocals, but Sean steps up occasionally, most notably on "This Side", which was actually the lead single from their second album. They began sharing lead vocals more on that album, often with a different vocalist coming in at an unexpected moment.
- Take That: Sean sneaks a rather amusing one into "Somebody More Like You":
I hope you meet someone your height
So you can see eye to eye
With someone as small as you.
- Two Roads Before You: The title track from "This Side" finds Sean wrestling with following his artistic muse versus selling out to please the crowd.
- Uncommon Time: "In the House of Tom Bombadil" and "Beauty and the Mess" can be rather headache-inducing if you're trying to keep track of the time signature.
- Your Cheating Heart: Explored in "Can't Complain", "Best of Luck", and "Helena".