Unlike her Nickel Creek counterparts who released a number of solo albums while the band was active, Sara Watkins waited until after the band went on hiatus to tackle a solo project. The result is Watkins' self-titled debut produced by Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones.
The album delves into some new territory for Watkins. The most unique and possibly the best track on the album is her groovy cover of Davìd Garza's "Too Much." While the changes in her cover of "Same Mistakes" by Jon Brion are minimal, Watkins brings out the country in the song by adding pedal steel guitar and her own southern California charm in the vocal delivery.
While the covers on the album are really strong, the originals are nice too. The standout is the album's final song, "Where Would You Be." The stark arrangement of the song allows Watkins' voice and somber melody to carry the song.
While many of the songs explore a folky, alt-country direction, Watkins returns to her the Nickel Creek roots on the fiddle tunes "Freiderick" and "Jefferson." The tracks could have been taken straight from any Nickel Creek album.
While the vibe of the album isn't focused and cohesive, Sara Watkins' debut album is a strong offering from the new solo artist. The album makes use of Watkins' strongest asset, her voice. It is front and center on all of the tracks with vocals, right where it should be.
Sara Watkins album is out today, April 7 via Nonesuch Records.