Friday, October 10, 2008

Sara Watkins goes solo under tutelage of John Paul Jones

John Paul Jones was playing at a bluegrass festival a few years ago when he said to the female member of Nickel Creek that he wanted to produce her solo album if she ever made one.

That's the way Sara Watkins recalls it went down. In an interview on Sept. 30 for the News Times in Danbury, Conn., the unsuspecting 26-year-old said she didn't know back then if Jones had any intention of following through.

Well, he has. Jones made good on that promise during some month-long sessions in Los Angeles this February, adding his magic touch much the same way he did in 2006 for the sophomore release by Uncle Earl. On both albums, he not only produces but also sits in on certain tracks.

On Watkins's solo debut album is a backing band with some famous musicians. Benmont Tench of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers plays keyboards, and Gillian Welch links up to play some guitar. The record, whose title is not yet firm, is expected to drop early next year. In Asheville, N.C., the Xpress has passed on that the album is to contain self-penned pop songs described as sounding like "a softer Neko Case" and "much like Alison Krauss's new album."

Watkins takes her band and her new act on the road tonight for the first time billed under her own name. The singer and multi-instrumentalist opens for Donavon Frankenreiter on a brief tour of North America that is to continue all into November. Check here for tour dates.

In the past, Watkins has held a weekly gig called the Watkins Family Hour at Largo, her home base in Los Angeles, where she has welcomed many onstage special guest musicians. That steady gig was in addition to her many outings with Nickel Creek over the past 10 years.

As reported in the New Yorker on May 19, Jones guested on bass at one Watkins Family Hour earlier this year, while he was still in Los Angeles just after completing the album. Over the summer of 2004, Jones toured the United States playing bass and mandolin for a touring lineup called Mutual Admiration Society that included Watkins.

For more information, see news articles in Danbury News Times and Xpress or visit Watkins's official Web site.

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