Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Sara Watkins album, produced by John Paul Jones, set for April release on Nonesuch

An album produced by John Paul Jones will be released April 7, 2009.

The self-titled debut of Nickel Creek member Sara Watkins now has a firm release date thanks to the support of Nonesuch Records, which this week announced its signing of the 27-year-old singer, guitarist and fiddle player.

In a statement released by Nonesuch, Watkins recalls when she first met Jones.
"A couple of years ago I saw John Paul Jones at the Cambridge folk festival. He came up after Nickel Creek's performance and said that if I didn't let him produce my record he would never talk to me again. I was thrilled that he was that excited about it."
And then they went on tour together in 2004 as members of Mutual Admiration Society. Now that Jones has produced the album and it's all finished, how does Watkins feel about Jones?
"John was an absolute dream to work with. I can't imagine anyone else with whom I would have felt more confident or comfortable. I think his undeniable musicianship and kindness made the ensemble on each song sound like a band that had played together for years."
Wow, who are the musicians performing on the album? Nonesuch says:
"Sara Watkins features a wide range of colleagues and old friends, including alt-country duo Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers keyboardist Benmont Tench, Elvis Costello drummer Pete Thomas; colleagues from the bluegrass world like Tim O'Brien, Punch Brothers' Chris Eldridge, Ronnie McCoury, and Rayna Gellert; and her Nickel Creek bandmates Chris Thile and Sean Watkins."
OK, an all-star cast, but what do they all sound like playing together? Sara Watkins says:
"Listening back to the finished record, it felt very natural. It is authentically me. I know that has so much to do with the process, with the years that I had been playing with all these guys, with the relationships I've made."
Well, what kind of music can we expect them to play? There are a few answers to this question. First, Watkins explains:
"I come from bluegrass and I wanted that to be part of the record. On the other hand, I've spent most of my life playing things that were not bluegrass, but maybe related to it, so all of the instrumentation and all of these players mean something to me. There are a lot of Nashville musicians on the record that I grew up performing with and players from L.A. who are musical heroes of mine. Even though not all of the songs on the album are my songs, it’s still really personal because I lived with this material for so long and I’ve played a lot of this music with the performers who are on it."
The record label adds:
"Already widely respected for her musical ability on the fiddle, Watkins' skills as a vocalist and songwriter are highlighted on this solo project. She wrote or co-wrote eight of the 14 songs on the record, which also includes renditions of tracks by Jimmie Rodgers, Jon Brion, Norman Blake, and Tom Waits."
The Xpress in Asheville, N.C., provided another description in a recent story on the singer. It says the forthcoming disc's original material is a collection of pop songs that sound like "a softer Neko Case" and "much like Alison Krauss's new album."

Also from Watkins:
"I had lived with a lot of this material for a while. It was tested and tweaked through the years playing at Largo. Songs would come and go; these are the songs that have stuck."
Largo is a club in Los Angeles where her Watkins Family Hour has been a regular feature. Fresh off her first-ever solo tour, she currently has two dates scheduled at that venue on Dec. 4 and 11. I'm mentioning this because you never know who might turn up. Sean Watkins and Benmont Tench did play with her on her tour this month.

Of course, Jones may be anywhere in December. Besides these Sara Watkins shows on Dec. 4 and 11, I have my eyes open to see if he might show up at a few other gigs.
  • For instance, Alter Bridge is currently touring Europe and will have dates through Dec. 10. I'm wondering what the chances are Jones will pop up onstage in Amsterdam on Dec. 7, when the band with singer-guitarist Myles Kennedy is filming a DVD. It would be so reminiscent of a Foo Fighters concert in London earlier this year that was filmed for a DVD that's already being sold worldwide, with footage of Jones and Jimmy Page playing two Led Zeppelin songs in the encore.
  • There is also the Christmas Jam in Asheville, N.C., scheduled for Dec. 12 and 13. It has been announced that Jones is booked to appear at the fundraiser for the local Habitat for Humanity, although it's unclear if his appearance has actually been confirmed.
  • Of course, for my own reasons, I'd really like to see Jones turn out in December to see Classic Albums Live tackle Houses of the Holy at Paradise Live in Hollywood, Fla. The dates are Dec. 11-13 and Dec. 18-20. Earlier this month, I reviewed a faithful recitation of Led Zeppelin's first album at that venue by Classic Albums Live.

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