Ever since Nickel Creek went on “indefinite hiatus” in 2007, Chris Thile has gotten more attention than the other two members of the progressive-bluegrass band. Yet even as Thile has been exploring virtuosity with Punch Brothers, Sara Watkins has been fiddling away at her own explorations.
“Sun Midnight Sun,” her second solo album, draws from deep traditional roots, but its branches reach from an ominously frantic version of “You’re the One I Love” (which the Everly Brothers recorded in 1964) to the nearly seven minutes of increasingly bitter writhing that make up “When It Pleases You” (written by Adele’s favorite songsmith of late, Dan Wilson).
Watkins is, it almost goes without saying, in beautiful voice and agile bow throughout, and producer Blake Mills never gives her or the music too much tasteful sheen.
“Sun Midnight Sun” shines with a brisk, memorable gorgeousness that makes a Nickel Creek reunion seem almost undesirable. - Jon M. Gilbertson