Bluegrass trio mixes music melodiously

Jeff Reid

Jeff Reid

Jeff Reid

I normally hate the whole country/bluegrass genre of music, but one band has really got my interest.

This year’s Grammy winner for best contemporary folk album, Nickel Creek, has one of the most original sounds in music right now, somehow mixing traditional folk and bluegrass styles with what can only be described as an alternative Celtic sound.

Now that may sound more than a little bizarre, but the trio somehow manages to pull it off on their award-winning album, This Side.

While there are some country-pop type songs similar to the Dixie Chicks or The Corrs, like “Spit on a Stranger” and “This Side,” where the band really shines is in the slower, more mellow songs.

“Hanging by a Thread” and “Sabra Girl” are more mellow songs.

“Hanging by a Thread,” “Should’ve known Better” and “Sabra Girl” are songs where the band shows what true folk music should sound like. Not a bunch of hippies singing songs about freedom with obscure analogies, rather, Nickel Creek captures the pure essence of the genre. It has heartfelt, straightforward songs, about love, loss and finding yourself. And many times, that’s just in one song.

The amazing thing is how the group can convey so many different things at once and still not be obscenely wordy. Instead, it does a wonderful job of letting the music speak for itself. Oftentimes, the lyrics serve only to emphasize the point the music has already made.

Another thing that is refreshing about the band is its choice of instruments. Nickel Creek has no elaborate drum set, no multitude of guitarists; it is just three people and wonderfully simple.

Sean Watkins plays guitar, Sara Watkins plays fiddle and Chris Thile is on the mandolin. The setup is basic, but members are so technically skilled from their training as bluegrass artists, that the sound is absolutely incredible.

To hear a band with something besides the guitar/bass/drummer combination that has become the typical setup of bands today, is an interesting experience, to say the least. It’s especially interesting when the band knows more than three or four chords, unlike most of the popular bands today.

I know this all sounds a bit out of character, after all, Rage Against the Machine, Better Than Ezra and Audioslave are some of my favorite bands. Trust me, Nickel Creek is one of the best, most innovative bands out today, regardless of genre. If you consider yourself a music lover in any sense of the word, then This Side is a must have.