Sean Watkins

All I Do Is Lie

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With a second Fiction Family project and a long-awaited Nickel Creek reunion album in the not so distant rearview mirror (Fiction Family Reunion arrived in 2013 and A Dotted Line dropped early the following year), Sean Watkins' could have been forgiven had he not wanted to drop a new solo album into the hopper, but 2014's All I Do Is Lie is a quiet and unobtrusive affair that feels more like a spring cleaning than a main event. Comprised of ten songs that trade in the relatively meaty folk-rock of 2006's Blinders On for a more measured, confessional, yet reliably quirky singer/songwriter feel that falls more in line with Nickel Creek bandmate Chris Thile's 2011 outing Sleep with One Eye Open, All I Do Is Lie is made up of mostly simple, yet smartly arranged country folk-pop songs. Like Thile, Watkins possesses a clear, vibrato-less tenor and is an incredibly gifted player who can bend genres to his will with the effortless gait of a former child prodigy, and his guitar work on songs like the lovely "Wave as We Run," the fluttery title cut, and the languid instrumental "Meredith," is as fluid as it is meticulous, but he also shares Thile's penchant for earnest self-reflection and existential dread, though the latter is buffered by an obvious strength of faith, which he applies tastefully on songs like "Since the Day I Was Born" and "The God You Serve." Elsewhere, the ramshackle "Keep Your Promises" suggests that Watkins still wants to keep a foot on the barstool, and the laid-back, Harvest-era Neil Young cadence of "This Will End in Tears" ventures into easy, back road Americana, but All I Do Is Lie is primarily a wistful, end-of-summer dalliance with self-doubt and measured hope that's as self-effacing as it is in need of a sympathetic ear, and doesn't overstay its welcome.

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