Artist: Watkins Family Hour
Album: Watkins Family Hour
Label: Thirty Tigers
Release Date: 07/24/15
There’s nothing like a family reunion to rekindle the binding ties of hearth and home and bring the kinfolk closer. That’s the sense one gets in listening to the easy, enduring “Steal Your Heart Away,” the first formal gathering of the communal combo that bills itself as the Watkins Family Reunion. The two siblings at the helm, Sara and Sean Watkins, have worked together before of course; both played prominent roles in the folksy bluegrass band Nickel Creek and the subsequent all-star conglomerate, WPA. However, by expanding the bonds to include Benmont Tench of the Heartbreakers and journeyman associates like Fiona Apple and Don Heffington, they’ve managed to assemble an all-star ensemble with which to tout their talent onstage, and now in the studio.
The song selection consists entirely of covers, some classic, some contemporary, but it takes on new resilience and resolve with the group’s inspired reads. Old standards like Gordon Lightfoot’s “Early Morning Rain,” the Grateful Dead’s “Brokedown Palace” and the classic country ballad “She Thinks I Still Care” apply equal doses of the fresh and the familiar, as if the emotions are being laid bare for the very first time. Likewise, the material is imbued with a casual caress and unfiltered spontaneity that suggest nothing more than an informal back porch gathering of family and friends. Ultimately then, Watkins Family Hour more than lives up to its title.