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Archive for the ‘Sara Watkins’ Category

[ATTENDED: February 16, 2019] I’m With Her

I’m with Her is something of a folk and bluegrass supergroup made up of Aoife O’Donovan, Sarah Jarosz and Sara Watkins.  I knew each of them from previous Tiny Desk Concerts and knew I’m With Her from a Tiny Desk Concert as well.

I was pretty excited to see them as both Sara and Sarah were on my list of artists that I wanted to see live (I was otherwise unfamiliar with Aoife).  One thing that always come up is their name–did they name themselves after the Hillary Clinton campaign?  In fact, no, the three got together and named themselves before Clinton used the slogan for her campaign.  Technically the band came first, but the Clinton campaign didn’t take it from them either, evidently–coincidental naming.  The band says that the exposure certainly didn’t hurt–but if it had been the other side’s campaign, they definitely would have fought it.

But on to the music.  The women sing in absolutely gorgeous harmony.  Individually, their voices are wonderful, but as they add one and then a second harmony…swoon.  They also switch instruments constantly–fiddle, mandolin, ukulele, guitar, banjo.  Everything sounds a little different. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: I’M WITH HER-Tiny Desk Concert #722 (March 28, 2018).

I’m with Her is a kind of a folk supergroup comprised of Aoife O’Donovan, Sarah Jarosz and Sara Watkins.  As the blurb notes:

The three singers who perform together as I’m With Her sound like sisters. It’s as if they’ve known each other all their lives and share common roots and musical memories… All three are brilliant players with an ever-shifting array of stringed instruments, guitars, ukulele, fiddle, mandolin and banjo. As I’m With Her, they know how to gather round a microphone and sing directly from their heart to yours. Purity is the brilliance behind I’m With Her.

They also share coming to the Tiny Desk:

Sara Watkins was here with Nickel Creek (2014), Watkins Family Hour (2015) and The Decemberists (2011). Sarah Jarosz was here in 2013 and Aoife O’Donovan came along with Yo Yo Ma and Chris Thile as part of the Goat Rodeo project back in 2011.

They play three songs from their debut album.

The first is “See You Around.” Sarah sings this first song.  Sarah and Aoife play guitar and Sara is playing an oversized ukulele.  At the end of each section their harmonies are wonderful.  It’s a really pretty song, with a great melody.  Then at around 2 minutes the song switches gears to the “shiny piece of my heart” section which changes the timbre and tone of the song.  Aoife takes over a bit and the song grows a bit darker and their voices sound more powerful.

For “Game to Lose” Sara switches to fiddle, Aoife plays Sarah’s guitar and Sarah is on mandolin.  I absolutely love the violin part and the way it plays off of the mandolin.  After a few measures, when they sing in three-part harmony from the get go….  Wow.  I love Aoife’s voice as she sings the end of the chorus, the mandolin is just fantastic and the fiddle trills are exquisite.

As they tune before the final song, Bob asks how many instruments they brought….  The answer is, a lot.  And they couldn’t leave without some banjo.  Then Aoife asks about the pink lemonade gummy bunny.  Bob says people leave random things.  You’re welcome to leave something too.  Aoife says, “I thought you were going to say I was welcome to eat it.”

Sarah says I feel like we’re just settling in, I wish we could play all day (and so do I!).

For the final song, “Overland” Sarah switches to banjo. Aoife has the same guitar and Sara is on guitar too.   Sara sniffs a few times and then deadpans, “Sorry I’ve got a coke problem, it keeps sneaking up on me.”  Everyone laughs and Sarah cracks up.  Bob says we’ll just have to loop that and Sara says, “we need some scandal.”

The song begins with Sara on lead vocals and Sarah’s banjo.  It is the most country sounding of the three (which surprises a bit since I don’t think of Sara’s voice as sounding like that).  But again, it’s the harmonies that are huge.

[READ: January 15, 2018] “Chicken Winchell”

This story was published in Vicky Swanky Is a Beauty, although as with most of William’s pieces I don’t remember it at all.

This story, which is half a page long, mentions three women characters and then uses “she” for the rest.  So I’m not sure which “she” is being spoken about.  There’s a waitress, a daughter and a mother.  The waitress wonders why the daughter never returned.  But apparently she did.

The mother confides in the waitress. (more…)

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olymmp SOUNDTRACK: WATKINS FAMILY HOUR-Tiny Desk Concert #471 (September 18, 2015).

wfhThe Watkins Family Hour began a dozen or so years ago as a way for a group of friends to get together and play old and new tunes. For Sean and Sara Watkins, it served as a monthly bit of magic: a musical variety show filled with extraordinary talent in the world of folk, bluegrass and beyond at L.A.’s famous Largo.

Sara and Sean Watkins took this fun on the road, with pianist Benmont Tench, drummer Don Heffington and bassist Sebastian Steinberg, and they made a stop at the Tiny Desk. They even brought along Fiona Apple to sing on “In the Pines” the old blues song.

The first song “Steal Your Heart Away” is sung by Sara (with violin melodies between verses) and Sean (on guitar).  It’s a bouncy folk song with a lovely piano added (which seems to move it out of the folk style a bit).  It’s a really catchy song with a great melody.

For “In the Pines” Fiona Apple sneaks out from behind the desk to sing.  Sean jokes that there’s some howling moments in this song and Fiona (who seems pretty nervous) jokes that she gets to be a dog.  I don’t know that I would have recognized Fiona’s voice as she puts on an accent and whoops (And Sean is a pretty good whoop-er, too).

The final song is “Hop High” another old song written by the hills–burbled up from the ground.   Sara and Sean take lead again on this slow brooding song.  Well, slow and brooding for the first verse, as the rest of the song takes off with Sara singing in her best gravelly voice the verse and Sean Sara and Fiona singing the chorus.

It’s a fun set full of great bluegrass-ish music

[READ: Summer 2015] Olympians 7-8

Last summer I read the first six book in the Olympians series. I’m not sure how many books he has planned for this series, although I see that he has another book planned for 2017.

Since I like what I wrote about the series for my previous post, I’m going to keep that here and then talk about each book.

George O’Connor is a massive geek and Greek scholar.  He has done lots of research for these books, including going to Greece and visiting sites and antiquities as well as comparing all manner of ancient stories to compile the most interesting pieces. He explains that since these stories were orally passed down, they were modified over the years.  He doesn’t change the myths, he merely picks the story lines that are most interesting to him.  And then he adds a lot of humorous modern touches (and dialogue) which keep it from being at all stuffy.

O Connor’s drawing style is also inspired by superhero comics, so his stories are presented in a way that seems much more like a super hero than a classical hero, which is also kind of fun.

Each book ends with an author’s note which is hugely informative and gives plenty of context.  It also has a bibliography, but more importantly, it has a list of notes about certain panels.  Do not skip these notes!  In addition to providing a lot of insight into the myths of the characters themselves, there are a lot of funny comments like “Greeks raced in the nude (point and laugh)” which really bring new depths to the stories. (more…)

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july7 SOUNDTRACK: NICKEL CREEK-Tiny Desk Concert #385 (August 26, 2014).

nickelI have listened to this Tiny Desk Concert so many times I can’t believe I never posted about it. This was my first exposure to Chris Thile, and in the two years since I watched this I have become a huge fan of his (and of singer Sara Watkins).

“Destination” was probably my favorite song from 2014 and is still amazingly catchy.  Nickel Creek’s harmonies are superb-lead by Sara and accompaniment by the other three, this song speeds along at a great clip with all kinds of fun instrumentation.

In addition to Thile on mandolin and Sara on violin, there’s Sean Watkins on guitar and Mark Schatz on upright bass.

I liked the way the players shifted positions to let Chris sing lead on “Rest of My Life.”  He introduced this song by saying, “this is the first day that I will be singing with my new braces.  I am 12 years old.”  With his new singing impediment he says this song is “Sung not as a its hungover protagonist but by its be-brace-ed protagonist.”   The melody is done on guitar and upright bass with Thile’s mandolin playing most of the higher notes and occasional grace notes from Watkins’ violin.  There’s also a delightful “lullaby” sounding  section in the middle.

“21s of May” is sung by Sean.  He introduces this jaunty song with “Remember when the rapture almost happened three years ago?”  May 21st was supposed to be judgement day so he thought he should write one more song and so he did.  He plays a great lead guitar melody on this song with great harmonies.

At the end of the song Thile bangs the gong and then asks if they want one more short song.  Then he admits that its longer than the other three.  It’s an instrumental song called “Elephant in the Corn.”  When the crowd cheers, Sean says it’s “Huge in Washington DC.”

I love that Chris and Sean get some fast solo and then Sara take as really slow violin leads that leads to a cool bass slide.  The song picks up again with Thile playing some amazingly fast mandolin licks.  And just when you think it’s all over, there’s a coda tacked on as well–and not just a “this is the end coda” either.

Nickel Creek has been around forever, and I’m only bummed that it took me until 2014 to actually hear them.

[READ: February 26, 2016] “Thirteen Hundred Rats”

Somehow I didn’t expect the title of this story to be taken literally.  And yet, it most certainly was.

I really enjoyed the way this story was constructed.  It is told by a man who is somewhat proud of himself.  He talks about the small village that they live in–a small village of 50 or so houses created by industrialist B.P. Newhouse (who hoped it would be a model of utopian living).  The narrator and his wife live there although they tend to travel the world now that they are older.

He tells the story of a village resident named Gerard.  He and Gerard had been friends and had congratulated themselves on not having any children.  Gerard’s wife had recently died and Gerard took it hard.  He wasn’t eating, wasn’t going out.  And people began to worry about him.

Villagers suggested that he should get a pet.  Even the narrator’s wife suggested it.  So the narrator trudged down to Gerard’s house, with his two dogs in tow to talk to Gerard. (more…)

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boilenSOUNDTRACK: ANGEL OLSEN-Tiny Desk Concert #333 (January 27, 2014).

angelBob Boilen has liked Angel Olsen for some time, so when she did her Tiny Desk and most of us had never heard of her, he was already a fan.

Olsen plays a long set but with four songs.

She sits very still, strumming with her thumb and singing kind of low–not unlike Sharon van Etten.  The first song, “Unfucktheworld” is only two ans a half minutes.  The second song, “Iota,” is a little longer.  She sings in an affected almost falsetto style, although the guitar remains very spare.

Between these songs, she is coy about the title of the new record although she is quick to say the first word of the title “burn.”  Later she admits that the final song contains the title of the album, if we wanted to spend time figuring it out.

I marvelled at how high the chords were that she played on “Enemy,”  She seems to eschew any bass for this song.  This one is five and a half minutes long and is just as slow as the others.

Before the final song they talk about whether this is the most awkward show she has done.  She says everyone is very alert–and indeed you can hear utter silence between songs.  But then they talk about the storm outside (and potential tornado) and how this show may never air if the storm is really bad.

“White Fire” is an 8 minute story song.  She does use the whole guitar for this one, which has many many verses.   Since I don’t really know Olsen’s stuff that well, I don’t know if this was a good example of her show or a fun treat to hear her in such an intimate way.

[READ: May 10, 2016] Your Song Changed My Life

This site is all about music and books, but you may be surprised to know that I don’t really like books about music all that much.  I have read a number of them—biographies, autobiography or whatever, and I don’t love them wholesale. Some are fine, but in general musicians aren’t really as interesting as they may seem.

What I do like however, is hearing a decent interview with musicians to find out some details about them–something that will flesh out my interest in them or perhaps make me interested in someone I previously wasn’t.  Not a whole book, maybe just an article, I guess.

I also really like Bob Boilen. I think he’s a great advocate of music and new bands.  I have been listening to his shows on NPR for years and obvious I have been talking about hundreds of the Tiny Desk Concerts that he originated.  I also really like his taste in music.  So I was pretty psyched when Sarah got me this book for my birthday.

I read it really quickly–just devoured the whole thing.  And it was really enjoyable. (more…)

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