Wednesday, September 21, 2005

I went to a showcase at Revival last evening where Nickel Creek played eight songs from its new Sugar Hill album, Why Should The Fire Die?, which came out last month. I had heard the group's two previous albums and respected the musicianship, but they did little to excite me. After hearing the band live, I have even more respect for its playing and got more out of Why Should The Fire Die?. The southern California group mixes bluegrass with folk and country music to come up with a sound that's hard to pigeon-hole. Frontman, mandolin and bouzouki player Chris Thile is a great picker and an energetic and enthusiastic performer who's good at engaging a crowd. The brother-sister team of guitarist Sean Watkins and fiddler Sara Watkins, as well as stand-up bassist Mark Schatz, are also definitely talented. The three main group members write all of their own material, though Gary Louris from The Jayhawks collaborated with Thile on Jealous of the Moon and they cover Bob Dylan's Tomorrow Is A Long Time on the new disc. The young band members were very polite when I had a drink with them after the performance, and Thile told a great story about playing mandolin for a very sleepy but appreciative Bill Monroe when he was just 13 (but was already sponsored by Gibson).
While the pints of Amsterdam Nut Brown Ale and the excellent appetizers at Revival were quite tasty, I still needed to partake of a two-for-three-dollar falafel sandwich deal on my walk down to the Horseshoe to see The Novaks.
The Novaks' self-titled debut album was released in Canada last month by Warner-distributed Sonic Records, and the Newfoundland band's excellent Goodbye Rock and Roll Band is currently at Canadian radio and video stations. The band adds more rock to the mix live than it does on record, and you can hear elements of The Flashing Lights, The Rolling Stones, The Joel Plaskett Emergency and label- and frequent tourmate Matt Mays in its music. The band's set picked up momentum as it played its catchier songs toward the end of the night, and the crowd's response was robust. Look for the group's young career to start picking up more momentum soon, too.
Happy first day of autumn.

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