A Dotted Line
My, how they've grown. Mandolin virtuoso Chris Thile and the Watkins siblings - fiddler Sara and guitarist Sean - served as Nickel Creek from their preteens to their early 20s, and even latterly were regarded as precocious kids who had taken bluegrass to previously unimagined lengths while keeping a firm hold on the tradition. They're in their 30s now and a near seven-year hiatus has seen them both mature and maintain their like-family vocal understanding. These 10 tracks are packed with bold, adventurous songwriting, bright, gorgeously strong harmonies, and the kind of instrumental fizz and sense of musical daring that Thile has perfected with his beyond-bluegrass, post-Nickel Creek posse, Punch Brothers. Sara Watkins emerges as singer with true bluegrass soul, especially on Sam Phillips's Where Is Love Now, one of two cover versions; the other, Vancouver indie band Mother Mother's tale of bucolic frolics, Hayloft, confirms that their years apart haven't diluted the Creek's liking for mixing musical mischief with a pop sensibility and great chops.