“It’s one of those endings / Where no one claps ‘cause they’re sure that there’s more”
The opening track of Nickel Creek’s comeback album clearly references the band’s long hiatus. The band amicably went their separate ways in 2007, vowing one day to reunite. However, as the years went by, any reunion looked more and more doubtful, as the band’s breakout star Chris Thile had so many other projects to fill his time. There was solo material, a whole new band, and even an unlikely-seeming collaboration with the classical cellist Yo Yo Ma.
However, Thile clearly didn’t let his new friends, nor even his MacArthur Genius Grant, distract him from his roots. On this the bands 25 anniversary, they have finally reunited for an album and American tour. If all this makes them sound like old fogies, don’t be fooled; the former child prodigies of Nickel Creek are still in their thirties, and still have a lot of musical vitality.
Musically, it’s like the band have never been away. Their acoustic sound is still the paragon of Newgrass music, which is basically acoustic pop but without the guilt. One of the great strengths of the band is that all three members contribute to the song-writing and singing, meaning there is much more diversity than you find with many groups. Thile and Sara Watkins’ voices are still as childlike as ever, giving their songs of lost love a sense of youthful folly, rather than lasting pain. Only Sean Watkins, the oldest member of the group, really brings gravitas to his vocal delivery. Instrumentally, the band is stronger than ever. The mandolin virtuoso Thile doesn’t dominate, leaving room for Sean’s crisp acoustic guitar, and Sara’s mournful violin (sorry, “fiddle”).