Singer, songwriter and fiddle player Sara Watkins, formerly of the band Nickel Creek, is coming to Grass Valley 8 p.m. Saturday for a Center for the Arts concert.
Watkins concluded her 2009 Nonesuch debut with a wistful, self-penned ballad, “Where Will You Be?” The song, about the slow fade of a romance, has taken on a bigger significance that goes beyond the lyrics. With Watkins standing on the brink of a solo career, the question in the song title suggests the jumping-off point in her own musical career as she prepares for a whole new life.
Watkins spent her younger years, nearly two decades, as a singer and fiddle player for the Grammy Award-winning bluegrass-folk hybrid band Nickel Creek. It was a trio she began performing in when 8 years old, alongside her guitarist brother, Sean, and mandolinist, Chris Thile. Now, she is stepping out on a solo path, in a transition that to old fans and new listeners, appears effortless and natural.
“Watkins’ time in the spotlight is a triumph with her agile playing and the kind of voice that gives your goose bumps the shivers,” said a reviewer from the BBC.
Watkins spent two formative years on the road fronting her own band and making stops at such events as the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, the Newport Folk Festival and Glasgow’s Celtic Connection before returning to Los Angeles to record her second Nonesuch disc, “Sun Midnight Sun.”
“Sun Midnight Sun” is produced by guitarist, songwriter and Simon Dawes co-founder Blake Mills.
“He sat in on the Watkins Family Hour, and it was really fun to play with him. He added to every scenario. I loved his songwriting and his taste in songs, and he’s especially thoughtful in the way he backs up singers. We were at Largo and, after doing some show in the little room there, I asked him if he would produce a few songs and he agreed. After that, I just thought, screw it, let’s do the whole record — and we did,” Watkins said of Mills.
The newest recording offers both sweetness and swagger with an appealing rough-hewn quality. Guest vocalist Fiona Apple appears on the CD on a surprisingly dark-around-the-edges rendition of the Everly Brothers staple “You’re the One I Love.”
Other guest appearances on the album include her brother, Sean Watkins, Jackson Browne, Taylor Goldsmith (Dawes) and Benmont Tench.
Watkins’ debut, “Sara Watkins,” was produced by John Paul Jones, the former Led Zepplin bassist and formidable song arranger, and backed by a stellar group of L.A. backing musicians.
For more about Watkins, go to http://sarawatkins.com.
Opening the show will be baritone vocalist, new folk songwriter Kris Orlowski. The musician writes from a real, unguarded place, and that accessibility is tangible on stage and off. Sound on the Sound brands him as “a troubadour by definition, whose full bodied croon develops a charisma all its own.”
With the significant talents of Mark Isakson on guitar, Torry Anderson on keys, Greg Garcia on drums and Tyler Carroll on bass, the northwest folk pop band is turning heads. Its new five-song EP, featuring a 17-piece orchestra, keeps the band evolving in sound with songwriting at the core of its future.
Learn more at http://krisorlowski.com.
Tickets for Saturday’s show are $20 for members of the Center, $22 for non-members and are available at BriarPatch Co-op or the Center’s box office in person, by phone or online.