Sean Watkins

Blinders On

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Nickel Creek guitarist/vocalist Sean Watkins put the Grande Ole Opry behind him with Blinders On, a 15-track foray into pop, rock, and the wonders of digital recording. From the opening Adrian Belew-esque guitar loop on "Summer's Coming" to the angsty, mandolin-led love song "Whipping Boy" -- the latter evolves into a full-on flat-picked guitar and cello jam about five minutes in -- it's clear that the shy, quiet Nickel Creek guitar player is coming out of his shell. Like fellow Creek members Chris Thile and sister Sara Watkins, Sean is a musical sponge filtering whatever genre he comes in contact with through his own unique brand of composition. Sparse and often dissonant band-aids ("Hello...Goodbye" and the Radiohead-tinged "Happy New Year") serve as bridges to full-on new acoustic confections like "Starve Them to Death," "No Lighted Windows," and the mournful "They Sail Away." Blinders On is pure California road pop, and while it occasionally veers into detached Pro Tools trickery, Watkins is an honest enough songwriter that his words peek through the sound waves like shark fins.

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