> cMusicWeb.com > Folk > Nickel Creek > This Side

Looking for something new? Our latest news and articles are at inReview.net

Nickel Creek
[ this side ]


advertise here





THIS SIDE (2002)
This Side - Click to view!Imagine you are in the midst of a revival. You are one among a cozy throng of nearly two hundred individuals with hearts and hands lifted, praising God. The only lights in the venue are dimly lit stage lamps, and the worship is so sincere and intense that you feel goose bumps. Just as you begin to belt out the chorus to your favorite worship song of all time, the band abruptly stops. The venue's lights all reappear, blinding the worshipers, and a man on stage announces that the revival is over and it's time to go home. Kind of kills the spirit of things, doesn't it?

The bluegrass revival of 2000 ended much in the same way. Thanks to albums like the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack and Nickel's Creek's eponymous debut, bluegrass was on its way to becoming cool again. Now signs show that the revival might have been over before it started. Nickel Creek's second release, This Side, is evidence, as the band has drastically cut ties with their roots and taken a more folksy approach to their music. Not that it doesn't work, mind you. Several tracks from the disc will undoubtedly become hits. "Spit on a Stranger" for example, seeps with British influence combined with a lightly strummed guitar melody. Chris Thile's vocals have vastly improved, and he hits all of the high notes with relative ease. "Hanging By a Thread" is the gentle ballad of the record with its "When you're here I'm fine, when you're gone I'm not" message, and "I Should've Known Better" is an interesting mix of country and blues. Sara Watkins takes lead vocals on this one, proving that she can adapt to nearly any style of music and still shine all the way through it. Without a doubt, though, "This Side" holds the position of best track on the disc. It's one of the first songs where Sean Watkins sings lead, but all three Nickel Creek members harmonize perfectly during the chorus. The lyrics describe a person who is making a change in their lives. While at first it is uncomfortable, this person becomes more familiar and accustomed to the change until he/she embraces it and refuses to go back to their old way of living. Peppy showings from Thile's mandolin and Sean Watkins's guitar serve to heighten the emotions from the lyrics.

Although few and far between, remnants of Nickel Creek's bluegrass style pepper the album's thirteen tracks. "Smoothie Song," the only instrumental, borrows elements from their first album, with the exception of the banjo. In fact, the banjo is largely absent from This Side, a regretful flaw. Instead, "Smoothie Song" relies on the bouzouki and Sara's violin to produce a very articulate groove. "House Carpenter," one of Nickel Creek's many story songs, is almost totally guitar dominated, and is a bleak, emotionless tale of forsaken love. It's the lack of emotion that makes this an incredible tune; most listeners will have to fight to avoid becoming teary-eyed.

For the most part, This Side is another impressive showing of the trio's talent. Unfortunately, the record lacks a few essential elements found on the first album that listeners will miss. As mentioned earlier, Nickel Creek's lovable bluegrass style is largely absent and only makes a showing in a couple of tracks. Secondly, several tracks fall short of making any kind of impression. "Seven Wonders" contains only vague enthusiasm, the harmonies on "Beauty and the Mess" seem sloppy and disorganized, and while Chris Thile's vocal chords stretch themselves on "Young," it's probably the least impressive musically of the entire album. In fact, Alison Krauss seems to have suspiciously twisted the production to mimic most of her own songs. This Side also features little to no spiritual content, containing only one reference to God as "The Great I Am" during "Seven Wonders." Finally, not really a complaint but more of a warning for the language-conscientious, two instances of the word "Hell" appear on the album. They are both used non-offensively though, and only the strictest of listeners will find this a problem.

Despite a few scuffs, This Side still stands out as a worthy follow up to Nickel Creek's debut. The triple threat of Watkins, Watkins, and Thile has once again proved their talent and artistry without all the bells and whistles. We only implore one thing: bring back the bluegrass. The self-titled Nickel Creek release showed us what they are truly capable of, and we want it back.
- Rick Foux
August 2002
Articles written by the staff.
Maintained by WebMaster Dan Ficker.
Site Design by da Man
All Material 1999-2005 Different Media LLC
Support cMusicWeb.com