With Nickel Creek on the dreaded "indefinite hiatus" after some two decades that carried her from childhood to world renown, Sara Watkins released her eponymous solo debut last week on Nonesuch. Produced with an adept, loving touch by former Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones, the album is a gorgeous collection of originals and covers (ranging from Jimmie Rodgers to Tom Waits) that, like latter-day Creek, carries bluegrass and country tradition into a genre-defying realm transcending the sum of its parts. Watkins's ancient-sounding "Bygones," with weepy fiddles, harrowingly close harmonies, and wraiths drifting out of the foggy mountains, precedes David Garza's pop-y "Too Much," with a Jon Brion electric guitar solo and Watkins's vocals, which have definitely experienced the lights on Hollywood Boulevard. Next comes the classic-country original "Will We Go," with Watkins doing her finest Dolly Parton impression while Jones and brother Sean conjure wistful acoustic accompaniment on mandolin and guitar, respectively. All the songs have a lived-in quality, honed during her and Sean's longtime residency at an L.A. club, and fleshed out with a slew of guests, ranging from Ronnie McCoury and Gillian Welch to Elvis Costello's drummer Pete Thomas and Tom Petty's keyboardist Benmont Tench. At the Dakota, it'll be a trio setup, with Tench joining Sara and Sean Watkins.
Wednesdays, Thursdays, 7 p.m. Starts: April 15. Continues through April 16, 2009