Another gem from the consistently strong label Sugar Hill, Sean Watkins’s Blinders On supports the ethos promoted by contemporary Sugar Hill acts such as Nickel Creek and the Duhks: understand tradition but resist classification. Watkins’s primary role is singer/guitarist for contemporary bluegrass innovators Nickel Creek, and his empathetic voice and straight-ahead songs translate well to this solo setting.
He’s not left stranded, though. Sister and Creek-mate Sara helps out, as does Switchfoot‘s Jon Forman. And, occasionally, as on “Run Away Girl,” all the comforts of home make the songs sound too familiar. But what makes Blinders On, his third solo album, remarkable is when Watkins stretches from his traditional role with lunges into odd instrumentation and non-traditional time signatures, more indie-pop than alt-bluegrass. It’s here, on songs such as “Coffee” and “Starve Them to Death,” that we see Watkins in his dual role: one-third of a tremendous band and one whole of an innovative and creative solo artist.
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