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Nickel Creek
Reasons Why (The Very Best)
Sugar Hill Records
www.nickelcreek.com


It's a difficult task to title a 14 track record The Very Best and narrow down the choices when a band is as incredibly talented as Nickel Creek. No matter how good a job the picker does, there will be tracks that some folks feel are missing and others that are included that some folks feel should not be. This is most certainly the case with Reasons Why - but the only real reason is the excellence of almost the entire Nickel Creek library of songs. But for those that may not know much about Nickel Creek already, Reasons Why is a great cross-section of their career thus far, making it a good launching point for new fans or those that want to give someone a gift of great music.

I can think of no greater track than "The Lighthouse's Tale" to start off a compilation of Nickel Creek songs. This track continues to be one of the finest newgrass tracks ever recorded, with its tender vocals and brilliant instrumentation that so ably presses the dynamic changes in the track. The band's cover of Sinead Lohan's "Out Of The Woods" is a welcome addition and shows a young band stretching their wings a bit. The jump to the rocking "When In Rome" seems a bit sudden, and from track three on, the album skips backwards and forwards in time, creating a bit of a schizophrenic feeling. I tend to like compilations better when organized chronologically, better showing the growth of the band. The awesome fast-paced jam "The Smoothie Song" is the only instrumental track included here, which seems a bit odd. Great tracks like "Somebody More Like You" and "When You Come Back Down" are welcome additions to the track listing on the first disc, which is rounded out by a couple of live tracks that are nice recordings of now classic Nickel Creek tunes. "You Don't Have To Move That Mountain" recorded at The Freight & Salvage in November 2000 is a smooth performance, Sara Watkins' vocals sounding remarkably resonant. The more than nine-minute version of the classic "The Fox" is from the same performance and features some incredible jamming and soloing, showing the band in fine form. Chris Thile's mandolin playing is clockwork and crisp, while Sean Watkins' guitar carries the song lithely along its way as it weaves its way into a classical piece by J.S. Bach and through Bob Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues" along with some brilliant moments of improvisation.

The second disc is a DVD that features seven videos from the band, which is a real bonus for those of us without cable television - not that any station plays music videos anymore, anyway. The early videos are very basic, showing the band performing the song in a nice setting, or telling a bit of a story… but the video for "This Side" breaks some barriers, involving more cast and some cool effects, while "Speak" is a deeply provocative story video and "The Smoothie Song" is just plain fun. Watching these videos makes the music come alive in a different light, which is definitely worth the price of the set.

While I would have liked to see such standout tracks as "The Hand Song", "Hanging By A Thread", and "Green And Grey" included on this compilation, all in all it is a great collection of songs from an amazing band. So, if you're not hip to the Nickel Creek tip, or know of someone who has not yet heard the gospel, grab a copy of this great "hits" package and get to stomping!

-Embo Blake

p.s. Sarah, the offer still stands. I'd marry you in an instant.

Track Listing:
1. The Lighthouse's Tale
2. Out Of The Woods
3. When In Rome
4. Helena
5. Smoothie Song
6. Somebody More Like You
7. Reasons Why
8. Can't Complain
9. I Should've Known Better
10. This Side
11. Jealous Of The Moon
12. When You Come Back Down
13. You Don't Have To Move That Mountain (live)
14. The Fox (live)

Videos:
1. Reasons Why
2. When You Come Back Down
3. Lighthouse's Tale
4. This Side
5. Speak
6. Smoothie Song
7. When In Rome


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Mike Doughty



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