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Austin, Texas was in for a treat when Sara Watkins and her band took stage this past Thursday night at Antone’s. The concert was intimate with an active crowd containing longtime Nickel Creek fans and others who have only been exposed to Watkins solo career.

As a songwriter, Watkins has evolved with every album she releases. Her debut solo album, Sara Watkins, was a little side step from Nickel Creek’s folk and bluegrass sound. Watkins follow up album, Sun Midnight Sun, established her distinct sound by blending folk instrumentation with a pop and alternative feel. Her current album, Young in All the Wrong Ways, diversifies her craft even more by implementing electric guitars, mellotron keyboards, and minor chord progressions backed up by her soulful vocals and clever lyrics that give certain songs on the album an aggressive haunting tone. It’s fun ride and highly recommend giving it several play throughs.

All of Watkins songs transition well from the studio to the stage due to talented performing multi instrumentalist. Sara switched between the fiddle, ukulele, and acoustic guitar during the show. David Garza is a skilled guitarist and vocalist who also play bass during the heavier tunes in the set. Michael Libramento is an incredible drummer that can play his kit with one hand while the other made complex bass lines on a keyboard whenever Garza was playing electric guitar. Together, the three musicians sound like a five-piece band is on stage.

The entire set was amazing, but there are a couple of songs that stood out more than others. “Move Me” was the crowd favorite and audible praise for the song could be heard when Watkins played the opening progression. The song was the heaviest tune of the night, and at times had “I Want You (She’s so Heavy)” (The Beatles) vibes with a bass line that moves with repeating lyrics that are sang softly during the verses and forceful in the chorus. The other song “Destination” came from Nickel Creek’s current album. Sara played this song alone with her fiddle and had the crowd sing out the mandolin riffs in the recording. The mandolin parts are written and performed by Chris Thile (Nickel Creek, Punch Brothers), who won the MacArthur Genius Grant back in 2012 for his mandolin skills. It was comical hearing the crowd attempt to sing along with the quick lines.    

Sara, who has a gentle and somewhat shy voice openly spoke to the audience throughout her set. “I didn’t want to be the same person I am now in ten years, so I changed up a lot of things in my life.” Watkins said. “I moved cities and wrote this album during the process. It’s different, and…well…it was kind of my therapy.” “It’s ours too!” A man that appeared to be in his mid-thirties cried out. Sara smiled and started to play the opening chords to the song Young in All the Ways”.

Sara Watkins is currently playing shows in the US and will be making her way through Canada in April. Check her website to see if she’s playing a show near you.

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