Watkins Family Hour keeps you in the family – a very extended one – in ‘Vol. II’: Album Review




		Watkins Family Hour keeps you in the family - a very extended one - in 'Vol.  II': Album Review

The term “residency” has not always been associated with the big cash reserves of Las Vegas, designed for pop stars to make big bucks while staying in one location. And in Los Angeles it’s not yet: That’s thanks to Largo, a small theater (and an even smaller nightclub) that rotates famous and semi-famous musicians and comedians around its billboard again and again, with the idea that if you come back after a month or four, you will usually see a different show. Producer, film composer and bandman Jon Brion was around weekly starting in the ’90s, before the grind became too much even to sustain such a prolific talent forever.

But Sara Watkins and Sean Watkins, bluegrassers turned country rock royalty, were able to keep their “Watkins Family Hour” shows on a more or less monthly basis for a little more than two decades. With a hot recovery and a series of regular guests and lounge, the residency has turned into what the term really suggests: In a city as musically impersonal as LA, their shows seem to be.

The brothers became two-thirds of Nickel Creek, joining Chris Thile in a mainstream bluegrass band. (That’s a term you’ve never heard before and probably never will again.) The skills and breadth of influences and styles they eventually displayed continue in that wildly successful group (which appears to be mostly, but not entirely, on permanent hiatus). with the eclectic source material for “Volume II,” their mostly new acoustic album. cover. (It’s the third album under the Watkins Family Hour auspices, but the middling effort consisted of originals from the brothers, sans all the guests, so they’re billing this as a follow-up to 2015’s effort that took of Largo’s magic for the first time. on the record).

Selections include a heartbreaking ballad from Elliott Smith’s late ’90s catalog (“Pitseleh,” guest starring Madison Cunningham); a brand new early ’60s country jam by Ernest Tubb (“Thanks a Lot,” which has a Bo Diddley beat and a baritone guitar solo by Brion); and a Tune-Yards song from 2021 that has frankly improved upon its transformation from EDM-pop to something sublimely grounded, “Hypnotized.” Petty & the Heartbreakers, Benmont Tench, is the sole accompanist on “Tennessee Waltz”) or Lucius’ fake sisters even join the real Watkins brothers in a four-part vocal arrangement on a little-remembered song by the Zombies , “The Way I Feel Inside,” turns the stuff of teenage romantic wisdom into a heavenly chorus.

Fiona Apple is a particularly prominent guest, helping old Tubb sing Dean Martin’s hit, “(Remember Me) I’m the One Who Loves You,” and there’s nothing flashy about the way she integrates into the family. , as he has done for years with his live and recorded appearances with the ensemble. Jackson Browne, who once portrayed the Watkins as band members and opening act, has his richest solo moment: he guest stars on a version of his own classic “The Late Show,” but cleverly takes the counterpoint part of Don Henley, Dan Fogelberg and JD Souther sang on his original album.

However, the biggest stars here are Sara and Sean, singers and master musicians on guitar and violin, respectively, and commissioners to beat the band. After 20 years of bringing people into his extended family, perhaps these former children have earned the right to be called papa and mama.

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