Nickel Creeks folktale beginnings give their art an authenticity which pre-packaged musical acts cannot fabricate. Thirteen years ago, mandolin phenomenon Chris Thile met fiddler Sara Watkins and her guitarist brother Sean while attending a bluegrass show at That Pizza Place in southern California. The band formed right there and the rest, as they say, is history.
Their self-titled debut album arrived just in time for the folk/bluegrass frenzy set off by the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack. Good timing helped boost the album to gold status (500,000 albums sold) much to the band members surprise. The groups second studio recording, 2002s This Side, proved the group to be more than benefactors of a fad.
Nickel Creek, half of which is instrumental, showcases the trios immense technical mastery of string and voice. Thiles dizzying mandolin licks and Saras flowing fiddling embellish tracks like The Lighthouses Tale and When You Come Back Down. The sometimes ecstatic, sometimes contemplative album feels like an acoustic odyssey.
With This Side, Nickel Creek left the heavily instrumental identity of their first album behind, featuring only the vocal-less Smoothie Song to tie the two albums together. On This Side, the band wanders deeper into alt-rock and pop influences with songs like their cover of Pavements Spit on a Stranger and Green and Gray, though they never forsake the newgrass twang of their first album.
With the faithful and compelling cover of bluegrass staple House Carpenter, Nickel Creek proved themselves worthy guides to the future of newgrass. This Side further established the trio, winning a Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Album; former winners include Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen.
Nickel Creek records under the Sugar Hill record label, whose artists include Willie Nelson and Dolly Parton. The labels motto contemporary music with traditional roots perfectly suits Nickel Creeks postmodern take on traditional bluegrass.
Most recently, Nickel Creek teamed up with Glen Phillips (Toad the Wet Sprocket) to form the Mutual Admiration Society (MAS). Together, they recorded and mixed their self-titled album in only six days. Nickel Creek provides the soundtrack for the vocal musings of songwriter Phillips.
Aside from Nickel Creek, Chris Thile and Sean Watkins both maintain successful solo projects. Thile recently released his fifth solo effort, Deceiver.
Pause Concert Chair Mary Henry 06 hopes Nickel Creek will boost Lutefests attendance and galvanize the festivals place among St. Olafs annual traditions. Were trying to start a new tradition by instilling Lutefest in the hearts of St. Olaf students, she said.
Fellow newgrassers Trampled By Turtles and St. Olafs own Matt Johnson Band, which won St. Olaf s 2004 Battle of the Bands will open for Nickel Creek. Four other campus bands will round out the schedule of performers for the day.
Rumors about the potential Lutefest appearances of Death Cab for Cutie and Cake may finally rest in peace Nickel Creek reigns over this years Lutefest. We want Lutefest to be even bigger and more exciting than last year, Henry said. We hope to set a mountaintop standard to continue from in future years.