Sara Watkins, best known for her work in the Grammy Award winning band, Nickel Creek, completed her first solo album while the band is on hiatus. Her debut album was produced by John Paul Jones (Led Zepplin) and was released in April 2009 on Nonesuch Records. Her follow up album, produced by Blake Mills, is due for a spring release. Sara is a frequent guest American Public Media program, A Prairie Home Companion. In the past few years, she has been on tour with John Prine, Donavan Frankenreiter, Robert Earl Kean, Dar Williams, Blind Boys of Alabama as well as Garrison Keillor's Summer Love Tour. In between tours, Sara performs at Largo in Los Angeles, where she and her brother Sean perform as The Watkins Family Hour with frequent guests including Benmont Tench, Greg Leisz, and Fiona Apple.

"Fiddle player and singer/songwriter Sara Watkins was born on June 8, 1981, in Santa Monica, CA, and first began performing professionally in 1989 in an early version of the group that became Nickel Creek. Released in 2000, Nickel Creek's self-titled debut album was produced by Alison Krauss and peaked in the Top 20 of the Billboard country chart; it remained on the list for more than a year. The group's second album, 2002's This Side, built upon such success by reaching number two. Watkins' multi-instrumental skills proved to be one of the band's key assets, and her songwriting prowess developed as Nickel Creek's career progressed.
In 2004, the bandmembers formed an ad hoc group called Mutual Admiration Society with Glen Phillips of Toad the Wet Sprocket and John Paul Jones, formerly of Led Zeppelin. The supergroup cut a self-titled album and toured in support. Meanwhile, Jones encouraged Watkins to make a solo album, which she prepared for by playing solo shows at the Los Angeles club Largo. She also played on recording sessions as a fiddle player and/or harmony singer with Hank Williams, Jr., the Chieftains, Béla Fleck, Darol Anger, Switchfoot, Jonny Lang, Dan Wilson, Ben Lee, Richard Thompson, Mandy Moore, and Alex Woodard, among others. Developing as a songwriter, she contributed to five songs on the Nickel Creek album Why Should the Fire Die? The group went on indefinite hiatus after the disc's release, and Watkins signed to Nonesuch Records as a solo artist before contacting Jones about producing her debut album. Sara Watkins was released April 7, 2009." - William Ruhlmann, AllMusicGuide

Aoife O’Donovan

The thing about fossils is that they take a very long time in the making, and it’s not an entirely intentional process. The making of Aoife O’Donovan’s debut album Fossils has hardly been a glacial affair, but it has spent rather more than a decade forming about in her creative subconscious. It was time well spent, for she’s crafted a beautiful, timeless record, the natural evolution of an accomplished singer and songwriter.

The album’s roots stretch back to Aoife’s time at the New England Conservatory, where she dreamed of one day recording an album with celebrated producer Tucker Martine (My Morning Jacket, Tift Merritt). Upon graduation, Aoife (pronounced “ee­fuh”) hit the road as the lead singer and principal songwriter/song­finder of Crooked Still, which grew into one of the world’s most acclaimed progressive string groups over the ensuing decade. The stunning versatility and appeal of her voice brought her to the attention of some of the most eminent names in music and led to collaborations across a wide variety of genres with everyone from Alison Krauss to Dave Douglas, along with a role as vocalist on the Grammy­winning Goat Rodeo Sessions alongside Chris Thile, Yo­Yo Ma, Edgar Meyer and
Stuart Duncan.

O’Donovan never forgot the call of that solo record, though, and last year she headed to Portland, OR, to fulfill her dream and record with Martine. Rich in songs and unexpected textures, the resulting album bears the remarkable fruits of their creative partnership. Both joyously open and profoundly private, the album is at all times an opportunity to enjoy O’Donovan’s thoroughly modern and deeply rooted vocals.The album opens with “Lay My Burden Down,” perhaps O’Donovan’s best­ known song simply because Alison Krauss recorded it on Paper Airplane. O’Donovan acknowledges the risk in this choice, and the reward. “One of my uncles loves to say that nobody owns songs, and I think that’s true. My version is so different from hers, and it really sets a nice tone for the record,” she says.

O’Donovan and Martine have carefully placed her songs in a variety of musical settings, from the chorus of horns which opens “Thursday’s Child” to the country­ rock of “Fire Engine,” from Charlie Rose’s pedal steel, running throughout Fossils, to the
sometimes squalling electric guitar on “Beekeeper.” It is a rooted album, to be sure, but not precisely a roots album.
O’Donovan chuckles a little. “I guess it just feels totally natural,” she says. “It’s how a lot of these songs have just come to life over the years.” Most of O’Donovan’s songs are character­ driven, and many of them resemble portions of the folk traditions in which she was raised. The second track, “Briar Rose,” for example, is based on an Anne Sexton poem, a recontextualized fairytale.

Though she will concede that a couple tracks are somewhat more personal. And that she is quite properly proud of Fossils. “This solo album seems like it was a long time coming to me,” she says, the sounds of an airport in the background. “I’ve been
thinking about it since I was 18 years old.” Time well ­spent. Fossils, after all, are among nature’s most durable, lasting
creations.

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Sara Watkins w/Aoife O’Donovan with Aoife O’Donovan

Monday, December 3 · Doors 6:30 PM / Show 8:00 PM at SOhO Restaurant and Music Club

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