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Nickel Creek
Why Should The Fire Die?
Sugar Hill Records

The words "slow burner" have been coming up in conversations about new releases more and more these days… It seems to be a rare commodity for an album to be released that immediately grabs hold of an audience in its entirety. There are tracks that jump out and scream "Single!" (not always the ones I would pick, certainly), but to be rapt by an entire album the first listen seems a scarcity. The newest release from Nickel Creek is a slow burner… for me, at least. While the album is immediately likeable and pleasant to listen to, the depth of songwriting takes a bit longer to find a good grasp. Chris Thile's songwriting has matured incredibly, as has that of the Watkins siblings, Sean and the beautiful Sarah.

The album kicks off with the first single, "When In Rome". The truth is quickly revealed that this is the real barnburner for the record. The beat is weighty and deliberate, creating a heavy underscore for the politically charged lyrics. "Somebody More Like You" is a beautiful song, a ballad of regret and loss, built on excellent Spanish flavored guitar and crisp mandolin. "Jealous Of The Moon" leans towards the jazzy side a bit, but not distractingly so, leading into the sunny and fast paced instrumental "Scotch & Chocolate". Slowing things down and creating a trancey dirge on "Can't Complain", Chris and Sarah harmonize beautifully. The Bob Dylan-penned "Tomorrow Is A Long Time" is a nice showcase for the crystal vocals of Sarah Watkins, and the accompanying mandolin playing is intricate and wonderful. This song alone would make the album more than worth the listen. "Stumptown" builds on a light stomp rhythm, and rises to one of the most impressive and tuneful instrumental recordings in recent memory. Sarah's vocal performance on "Anthony" is very nice, as the song is produced to sound like an old LP being played through lo-fi speakers. "Doubting Thomas" re-affirms Chris Thile's position in modern music, not only as a brilliant player, but as a thoughtful and intricate lyricist. "Helena" builds from a quiet porch ballad to a pure form Nickel Creek cacophony of sound - one of the most dynamic and energetic tracks on the album. Which leads into the melancholy and haunting "Why Should The Fire Die?", which creates a peaceful, if somewhat sad, ending for the listen.

So, while there are no songs that leave the ear awestruck on the first listen, it takes but a small bit of patience to uncover the pearls hidden inside these murky shells. And every second of every song becomes as important as any other fine modern bluegrass recording. Nickel Creek continues to astound fans of the genre, as well as bringing in new listeners by creating some of the finest and most beautiful of newgrass songs.

And Sarah, if you're reading this, let's us have a nice cozy lunch next time you're in town.

-Embo Blake

Track Listing:
1. When In Rome
2. Somebody More Like you
3. Jealous Of The Moon
4. Scotch & Chocolate
5. Can't Complain
6. Tomorrow Is A Long Time
7. Eveline
8. Stumptown
9. Anthony
10. Best Of Luck
11. Doubting Thomas
12. First And Last Waltz
13. Helena
14. Why Should The Fire Die?

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