March 26, 2013

Reviewed: Sara Watkins, Field Report

The Sinclair, Cambridge, MA

I was already excited to go to last night's show at The Sinclair before the headliner's name caught my eye. Initially, I planned on attending solely to see Field Report, Chris Porterfield's beautiful folk group whose tour had somehow been eluding me for the last year. It took me a few days to realize that Porterfield would be opening up for the Sara Watkins. As in the singer/violinist who had earned my attention as one-third of Nickel Creek and live violinist for The Decemberists. Even then, I didn't expect to see a two-thirds Nickel Creek reunion on stage with Sean Watkins supporting his sister on guitar for "Reasons Why," a classic track from 2000's Nickel Creek

Kicking off the show to a half-full seated audience, Porterfield led his group through some of the most ethereal, soothing folk music being made these days. Accompanied by Randy Pingrey on trombone, Porterfield was all smiles, even while playing self-proclaimed "sad, kick you while you're down" music. With a small, quiet audience like that, it would have been easy for an artist to seem disappointed, or even upset with the crowd. But the charming frontman was affable, lively, and responsive. After a fan blurted out asking to hear "Taking Alcatraz," Mr. Porterfield quickly decided to take the guy's advice. And thank goodness. They hadn't been planning on playing it, one of their album's standout tracks. It seemed as if the group was more focused on the atmospheric, harder-to-digest tracks. In my humble opinion, if Porterfield plans on making some more waves, he should stick to that guy's advice. That track is killer!

Watkins hit the stage with her star-studded band and quickly turned up the energy level. With foot-stomping bluegrass jams and string-burning fiddle skills, Watkins featured her new album Sun Midnight Sun, but squeezed in a bunch of covers as well, taking on Tom Waits, John Hartford, Robert Earl Keen, and Bob Dylan tracks with ease. While Porterfield is a new voice hoping to emerge in the folk-country scene, Watkins is clearly a seasoned veteran, having played in some of the biggest groups of the genre. Now roughing it on her own, Watkins is easily proving that her practice has made perfect.


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