For many, Sara Watkins will forever be associated with the bluegrass group Nickel Creek. This is understandable considering how popular the band was, and that Watkins spent almost 20 years playing fiddle with the trio she helped found when she was only 8 years old, but Watkins has been blazing a solo trail for the last six years straight into the midnight sun.
Her most recent album, 2012’s Sun Midnight Sun, is chock-full of memorable bluegrass, folk and pop numbers, and more than a few surprises. Watkins showcases her everlasting fiddling prowess on the instrumental opener “The Foothills,” and the power of the nostalgic handclap-happy “You and Me” is augmented by a chorus of voices and Watkins’ own sweet vocals. But her rendition of the Everly Brothers’ classic “You’re the One I Love” is given one hell of a treatment: A duet with Fiona Apple turns the original into a darker, rip-roaring fiddle fest. Apple is a recurring guest on Watkins’ California-based and broadcast music residency, the Watkins Family Hour.
“I was going through an Everly-Buddy-Holly phase — a bender really … I thought I should sing with a girl and the follow-up thought was I should work on it with Fiona,” Watkins tells EW. “She came down and she and I sang it face to face.”
Watkins is not abandoning her bluegrass roots so much as she is broadening her horizons, collaborating with the likes of Jackson Browne and Taylor Goldsmith. She’ll also be going on tour with Garrison Keillor for A Prairie Home Companion later this summer.
Sara Watkins plays with Tatiana Hargreave 7:30 pm Wednesday, May 15, at The Majestic Theatre in Corvallis; $18-$25.