With her band Nickel Creek on "indefinite hiatus," singer and fiddle player Sara Watkins makes her solo debut with a recording that gives a good sense of her hybrid musical heritage, combining traditional country elements with singer/songwriter pop. It's a mixture conceived in Los Angeles, specifically at the nightclub Largo, which helps explain the presence of Jon Brion's song "Same Mistakes." Of course, Watkins is first and foremost a bluegrass player, and she lapses back into the Nickel Creek format on the instrumentals "Freiderick" and "Jefferson." But as a singer, with her breathy, untrained voice, she sounds like she's spent at least as much time listening to Edie Brickell and Aimee Mann as Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn. And she delights in juxtapositions of hill country music and downtown L.A. singer/songwriter styles, pointedly sequencing "Same Mistakes" right after "Freiderick," and sticking David Graza's pop/rock tune "Too Much" in between the down-from-the-mountain "Bygones" and the old-timey "Will We Go." She pays tribute to such crossover country stars as Jimmie Rodgers ("Any Old Time") and John Hartford ("Long Hot Summer Days"), as if to suggest that she is in their tradition of performers with impeccable traditional roots who nevertheless play beyond the borders of the Confederacy, which is, perhaps, only appropriate for a country performer born in Santa Monica, CA.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann