Former Nickel Creek member Sara Watkins makes her solo debut with a quiet, subdued album that encompasses folk, country and the progressive bluegrass for which her old trio was known. Watkins writes or co-writes about half the songs here, and she’s definitely still developing as a composer. Her strongest originals are traditional bluegrass instrumentals “Freiderick” and “Jefferson,” which most directly recall her Nickel Creek days, and showcase her top-notch fiddling.
The rest of Watkins’ own compositions are a little wispy and slow, but she does an impeccable job choosing covers, from the old-fashioned country of John Hartford’s “Long Hot Summer Days” and Jimmie Rodgers’ “Any Old Time” to the contemplative folk of Jon Brion’s “Same Mistakes” and Tom Waits’ “Pony.” The album is packed with guest stars, including both of Watkins’ former Nickel Creek cohorts, and tastefully produced by John Paul Jones. While Watkins struggles to find her voice as a writer, near the end of the album she pulls out the breezy, heartfelt “Will We Go,” which is nearly on par with the old pros she covers, and paves the way for a promising future