Sean Watkins

Let It Fall

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Certain artists spend their musical life as part of a band, others as a solo act. A few, like Sean Watkins, are comfortable in both settings. A member of Nickel Creek, Watkins is also an accomplished songwriter and one heck of a guitar player. On Let It Fall he has a chance to showcase both skills, resulting in a number of skillfully played, atmospheric instrumentals. Energetic fingerpicking jumpstarts the album on "Neo's Song," an acoustic feast featuring fiddler Stuart Duncan, mandolinist Chris Thile, and banjoist Dennis Caplinger. The only vocal shows up on the title track, sung by none other than Glen Phillips, frontman of Toad the Wet Sprocket. This track comes closest to the acoustic pop of Nickel Creek's self-titled debut. The placid "January Second" paints an evocative landscape that feels like late winter, and this tune wouldn't be out of place on a David Grier album. While mandolins or fiddles ground Let It Fall in the rhythms of bluegrass, the overall feel is closer to the progressive instrumental sound of Tony Furtado or Alison Brown. Dobroist Jerry Douglas, bassist Todd Phillips, and fiddler Stuart Duncan, all alumni of new acoustic music, join Watkins on several tracks. A number of gentle, atmospheric tunes like "Cloudbreak" and "The Birth" also attest to the strength of the writing on Let It Fall. For Nickel Creek fans who would like to hear more of Watkins's glorious guitar sound, and for those who enjoy engaging acoustic music, this album is a keeper.

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