I honestly rarely really use a lot of information I receive in press kits to future albums. About Sara Watkin’s new album, Under The Pepper Tree, the record company stated […] Sara Watkins offers a comforting record for those moments as daily rhythms fade into nightly rituals – and when a child’s imagination comes to life. Couldn’t there be a better introduction to this record? It will be released on 26th March 2021.
Sara Watkins – About The Artist
Sara Ulrika Watkins was born on 8th June 1981 in Vista, California, a town North of San Diego. She is a singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, majorly playing guitar and the fiddle. She became well-known as a member of the band Nickel Creek, who she is still part of, together with her brother Sean and Chris Thile. The biggest success of the band found in 1989 is undoubtedly the 2002 Grammy Award for the Best Contemporary Folk Album. The country / progressive bluegrass band had three Number 1 albums in the US Bluegrass Charts.
Since 2007, Sara Watkins is also performing solo. Her debut album was self-titled and has been released on 7th April 2009. So far, she released two more solo albums, Sun Midnight Sun (2012) and Young in All the Wrong Ways (2016). The latter topped the US Heat Album Charts. Watkins, Sarah Jarosz and Aoife O’Donnovan also form the band I’m with Her since 2018.
Sara Watkins – Under The Pepper Tree – Track by Track
The fifteen track album lasts 36 minutes.
1. Pure Imagination
The album starts with the beauty and the fragility of a Disney movie soundtrack. Not that surprising, as the Gene Wilder original has been used in the Willy Wonka soundtrack. With 3:09 minutes, Pure Imagination is the second longest track of the album.
2. The Second Star to the Right
The Second Star to the Right occurred in Peter Pan for the first time. The style of Sara Watkins’ interpretation stays similar: more quiet, more fairy like than the original – even more Disney-alike than Disney could ever do.
3. Blue Shadows On The Trail (feat. Nickel Creek)
This song has originally been part of the The Three Amigos movie soundtrack. Sara Watkins is supported by her Nickel Creek band mates, which leads to a slight bluegrass touch. A nice match to the song.
We are in the musicals now – Edelweiss is originally part of The Sound of Music. Sara Watkins uses chidren sound in the background, so that you are almost feeling this could be a lullaby.
5. Moon River
I guess I don’t need to say too much about Moon River, originally performed by Audrey Hepburn. The song feels quite energetic, compared to many other songs on the recording. Still, the album sticks with its concept, so don’t expect any bombastic guitars or similar.
6. Under the Pepper Tree
The fiddle tunes of the title track give a bit of a bluegrass touch – but finally, this song feels more like a instrumental intermission in the curse of the full album.
7. When You Wish Upon a Star
This song has been used to support the story of the wooden puppet with the long nose. Pinocchio, however, had quite some choir support in the starting song of his cartoon movie. At Sara Watkins, the song rather feels like a good night wish.
8. Night Singing
The singing style of Night Singing reminds me of Sarah Darling’s Montmartre. I like Sarah’s ode to Paris, especially live on stage. Sara Watkins cannot keep up with that – but it is a nice, different sound.
9. La La Lu
La La Lu again has a lullaby character. However, it also comes with a touch of French chanson. I can still see the Lady and the Tramp scene to it.
10. Tumbling Tumbleweeds Feat I m With Her
After a couple of songs which I rather felt to be too quiet and too gentle, the tenth track is having more power and a wider instrumentation, Feels a bit like traditional country. The original is by Roy Rogers & Sons of the Pioneers, if you want to compare.
11. Blanket for a Sail
After the previous track, which also has been a bit closer to Sara Watkins’ “traditional song”, Blanket for a Sail is a real nice rhythmic (but rather slow) bluegrass tune with a nice groove. Are we departing from Disney and cute melodies for the grand finale?
12. Beautiful Dreamer
If you follow a concept like Sara Watkins does with Under The Pepper Tree, you always risk that you drift into the too kitschy way. Especially if you record your version of Roy Orbison’s Beautiful Dreamer. The song is already quite one for the heart in the original. I feel she crossed the line here too heavily.
13. Stay Awake
Have we checked all cartoon soundtracks already. Number 13 is Stay Awake, which you might know from the Marry Poppins movie. I am asking why almost every song comes with that “lullaby touch” in this album? Concept? Maybe… But you also risk to be monotonous. I just cannot deny that feeling.
14. You’ll Never Walk Alone
From California to Anfield Road: the Liverpool soccer anthem by Gerry and the Pacemakers is the second last one of the album. That’s maybe the song where I finally broke with the album: the original is energetic, cheerful. Hundreds of thousands soccer fans sing it in stadiums around the globe each weekend (out of Covid-19) for a reason. This version is so different. I struggle with it. You’ll Never Walk Alone is a too emotional thing to me.
15. Good Night
The closing track is Good Night, a Beatles original. I feel that this song is a nice choice, it fits to the album and concept.
Sara Watkins – Under The Pepper Tree – Spotify
Here is the album on Spotify:
Sara Watkins – Under The Pepper Tree – My View
Sara Watkins took a hard task with Under The Pepper Tree:. I read a couple of reviews saying that the album is energizing or empowering. I am sorry to say that I just did not explore it. I feel that concept would have worked perfectly in an EP. The songs are (mostly) quite good individually, but I don’t go that much with the total album. The songs remind me of my past – which is a nice thing in general. There are a lot of classics. My rating is not too far above average.
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