Sara Watkins "Young in All the Wrong Ways"

Sara Watkins has been plying her trade in front of an audience since she was eight years old as a member of the bluegrass unit Nickel Creek. The band gained national attention while she was still a teenager, insuring that a larger audience viewed her maturation as both a musician and, to some degree, as a young adult. Now, at age thirty-five, Watkins is a fully formed musician of remarkable skill and a songwriter of keen insight. She’s worked on numerous projects, including The Watkins Family Hour, appearances on a variety of artist’s albums, and as a touring member of The Decemberists.

Watkins’ third album draws on these experiences and displays her evolution as a musician, singer, and songwriter. All ten songs were either written or co-written by Watkins and feature a range of genres. “Tenderhearted” is a sweet country ballad that would have suited a young Emmylou Harris. “The Truth Will Set Us Free” is pure honky-tonk with plunking piano and stand-up bass. “One Last Time” touches on those early years with a hint of bluegrass and backing vocals from Jim James. The single “Move Me” employs edgy-rock guitar and angst-driven vocals. The title track again finds Watkins vocals leaping from folk purrs to rock-rage. As a young woman in a band she was a tentative singer, but here she commands the material.

Young In All the Wrong Ways is an apt title for an album that reflects on youthful naiveté. Maturity allows us to empathize with our mistakes but doesn’t deflect the emotional remnants. Watkins captures the melancholy of these experiences, of letting go of love and moving on and growing up. She’s mostly tender when singing of the missteps of love, but she isn’t beyond throwing shade. Watkins is bolstered by a stellar band that includes her brother Sean and drummer Jay Bellerose. She also receives backing vocals from up-and-coming stars Aoife O’Donovan and Sarah Jarosz.

Rosemary Welsch (Afternoon Mix)