Watkins Family Hour – Brother Sister

Album Review | Family Hour Records | Review by Allan Wilkinson

Having already made their mark on the acoustic music roots scene, both through their solo work and as part of other outfits, not least Nickel Creek, along with Chris Thile, siblings Sara and Sean Watkins return with an exceptionally raw and vibrant album; a showcase of their shared musicianship.  As a duo, both musicians shine equally in their own specific field, Sara being an expressive fiddle player and Sean being an intuitive guitar player and both seasoned singers, possibly from birth.  If their debut album as a duo consisted of covers, then Brother Sister explores their own writing capabilities with fine results.

In most cases when we claim brilliance in a musician, then it’s often due to the speed and dexterous flair of the playing. In Sara’s case, it’s the underplaying that creates the atmosphere that in turn adds the appeal of the songs on Brother Sister. During the pop-influenced “Just Another Reason”, Sara’s touch is so light in places, that we almost feel the very fabric of the instrument as the bow moves at a snail’s pace across the strings. This isn’t easy to pull off and the song benefits hugely from the sonic effect. If we wax lyrical about the playing, then the vocal prowess of the siblings is even more extraordinary. It’s that old familial harmony thing that comes along every now and again that makes the sound so unique and utterly their own. Brother Sister is mostly self-penned with one or two covers, notably Warren Zevon’s Excitable Boy era “Accidentally Like a Martyr”, which is sensitively performed, together with Charley Jordan’s hot and jumpin’ 1930s hit “Keep it Clean”, which features guest vocalists David Garza, Gaby Moreno and John C Reilly, which is fun indeed.

Choice Track: Just Another Reason (NSV 502)