Top positive review
14 people found this helpful
The fire isn't dying!
on 13 September 2005
Being a long time 'Creek fan, I must admit I was intrigued when I heard that Alison Krauss wasn't producing this record, and instead Eric Valentine (Queens of the stone age, Good charlotte) was taking the helm. Given the previous form, I wondered if we were going to see NC 'do a Dylan' and go electric - which would have been interesting! - but the 'Creek are all about progressive acoustic music and none more so progressive as this record.
Instead Valentine has managed to pull a Rick Rubin and has drawn out the rock sensibilities of the new material, whilst using the acoustic sound to push it as something altogether more powerful and broader on the soundscape. As Sean Watkins once said himself, 'if you play an Eminor chord through a stack of Marshalls, it's easy to sound angry, you have to be more imaginitive in getting that across on acoustic instruments'.
The feel of the album itself is a lot darker than previous records, although parts of 'This side' were hinting at it. They have evolved as story tellers, and the once metaphoric, 'cloak and dagger' lyrics are now poetically stark. Thile's voice has developed a gritty edge that does a lot more for this material than his youthfully exuberant vocal would have done. His writing is the major showcase on this album too - and echoing his latest solo effort 'Deceiver', it brings most of the darkness to the record.
Sara Watkins voice has come the longest way, from sweet and innocent Krauss-alike to a confident, rockier, mature sounding lady. She sounds like she has 'found' her voice on this record and isn't scared to use it! The fresh cover of an old Dylan song is the best display of this.
My major criticism of the album is that Sean Watkins' contributions as a writer and vocalist are limited. I make no secret that I am a fan of his solo work, but bias aside, NC has always been a fairly evenly shared affair and I do feel that Thile has taken the front seat on this one. I also don't feel that the Watkins contribution 'somebody more like you' reflects his best work. At least 2 or 3 Watkins compositions on the next record please!
All in all - an interesting 'coming of age' record from the most exciting young talent around.