‘brother sister’ is the second album from Watkins Family Hour, featuring siblings Sara and Sean Watkins, following their well-received self-titled debut from 2015.
Both siblings have successful solo careers in addition to Watkins Family Hour, including I’m With Her (Sara), Fiction Family (Sean), and Nickel Creek with their friend and long-time collaborator, Chris Thile.
With their musical and chops and gorgeous vocals honed to perfection in the folk, bluegrass and Americana realms the duo’s impeccable musicianship shines through on this release, as does the energy they bring to their live performances, with many songs recorded with vocals and instruments simultaneously.
Vocal duties are shared throughout, with both taking solo vocals in turn, together with trademark harmonies, Sara playing fiddle and Sean acoustic guitar, and production by Mike Viola (Jenny Lewis, Mandy Moore, J.S. Ondara) and mixing/engineering by Clay Blair.
The album features seven original songs, and three covers. The original compositions include two instrumentals, the atmospheric ‘Snow Tunnel’, with brooding fiddle, titled after Sean’s memory of driving through Zion National Park, emerging from the darkness of a loud tunnel into a peaceful panorama of snow, and the brighter up tempo ‘Bella and Ivan’, named for a friend’s two dogs who love to wrestle.
There are no fillers here—all the tracks are strong, stand outs among the vocal-led tracks include ‘Just Another Reason’, an up tempo song with guitar and fiddle augmented by upright bass and percussion, and opening track ‘The Cure’, where the siblings share vocals, singing ‘I’ve been praying for a breakthrough/As long as everything stays the same/I avoided the cure/But it found me anyway’ taking us to the memorable chorus ‘This is good, this is real/It’s how it’s supposed to feel/Right here and now/Both feet planted on the ground’
Sean was inspired to write ‘The Cure’ after watching Tidying Up With Marie Kondo. , the concept of throwing things away evident in the lyrics paralleling the sense of knowing that you’re in an unhealthy relationship, but still choosing to avoid fixing it.
Warren Zevon’s great break up song ‘Accidentally Like a Martyr’ features heart-achingly vulnerable vocals from Sara, and the stripped back guitar and fiddle arrangement lets the song’s lyrics shine through, while adding a new fiddle motif which adds to the song’s emotional impact.
Original song ‘Lafayette’ shares this stripped back approach, with Sean taking the lead on vocals singing of separated lovers ‘It’s a thousand miles/And seven hundred more/To your arms from this palette on the floor/It’s been a while/Ten years or more/Still my heart is your prisoner of war’.
Closing track ‘Keep it clean’, a Charley Jordan composition from the 1930’s, was covered in a spare style in recent years by Willie Watson on ‘Folk Singer Vol 1’, but this storming version brings barrelhouse piano to a driving full band arrangement, recorded live in the studio and featuring David Garza, Gaby Moreno, and John C. Reilly guesting on vocals.
Released on Family Hour Records/Thirty Tigers.
Watch the official music video for album track, “Just Another Reason,” HERE.
1. The Cure
2. Neighborhood Name
3. Just Another Reason
4. Snow Tunnel
6. Fake Badge, Real Gun
7. Miles of Desert Sand
8. Bella and Ivan
9. Accidentally Like a Martyr
10. Keep It Clean
Article written by Dave Jarman (twitter.com/davidjpj)