Nickel Creek

A Dotted Line

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A Nickel Creek reunion was perhaps inevitable. Neither Sara Watkins nor Sean Watkins ceased performing together during their seven-year hiatus and while Chris Thile saw some success with the Punch Brothers, the pull of a 25th anniversary reunion was too strong to resist. To accompany a 2014 tour, the trio recorded the new album A Dotted Line, a record that adhered to the group's traditions so much they wound up whittling away most of their progressive leanings. Nickel Creek still has an ear for interesting covers -- here, they pick Mother Mother's "Hayloft" and Sam Phillips' "Where Is Love Now" -- but the instrumentation on this brief ten-song collection focuses on guitar, mandolin, and fiddle. It's a far cry from the eclectic, electric adventures on Sara Watkins' solo records but the music feels alive and nimble and the originals -- which are primarily group collaborations, although Thile wrote the instrumental "Elsie" and Sean wrote the plaintive "21st of May" -- are uniformly solid. If there isn't much spark, there is a surplus of warmth; the trio is comfortable and relaxed, and it's hard not to succumb to such friendly, familiar vibes.

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