Nickel Creek: Not Your Grandma’s Bluegrass

Progressive bluegrass trio Nickel Creek will hit Burlington next weekend with a set sure to please. Brother and sister – guitarist Sean and fiddler Sara Watkins – and mandolin/banjo/bouzouki player Chris Thile began playing together in 1989 as preteens in southern California, touring the bluegrass festival circuit throughout the ’90s. In 1998, they signed a record deal with Sugar Hill and released their self-titled album, which reached number 2 on Billboard’s Top Independent Music chart and created a word-of-mouth buzz nationwide. In 2002, Nickel Creek released their second album, This Side, which debuted in the Top 20 on the Pop charts, number 2 on the Top 20 Country chart, and number 1 on the Top Independent Music chart. The sophomore album also won a 2003 Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Album. Chris, Sara and Sean just released their third album last month, Why Should the Fire Die?, which Entertainment Weekly said is “steeped in tradition… but also flirts with pop immediacy.” Nickel Creek is NOT your grandma’s bluegrass. With an eclectic brand of classical, jazz and rock n’ roll, the trio brings a “genre stew” to the table, as Thile calls it. When describing Nickel Creek’s songwriting beginnings, Chris Thile admits, “an honesty issue arose at that point: Like, we probably shouldn’t necessarily write songs set back in the hills about moonshine and coal-miners.” The band has certainly jumped that hurdle, with pressing, raw lyrics chock full of tensions and truths. Oh yeah, and did I mention that Chris Thile is just about the sexiest mandolin player I have ever seen? Nickel Creek will be performing at Higher Ground Sept. 30 and Oct. 1. For more information, visit www.higherground.com.