The three members of Nickel Creek reunited onstage Wednesday as part of CBS Films’ celebration of the Coen brothers’ folk music tale “Inside Llewyn Davis” and there should be more to come.
Mandolinist Chris Thile, fiddler Sara Watkins and guitarist Sean Watkins are recording an album that Warner Music’s Nonesuch label is eyeing for a spring release. Sara Watkins has released two solo albums on Nonesuch while Thile has recorded with Punch Brothers, the bassist Edgar Meyer and done solo work for the label; his latest, solo interpretations of two Bach pieces, debuted at No. 1 on Billboard Classical Albums chart.
One insider says there will be a half-dozen Nickel Creek performances surrounding the release though exactly when and where is yet to be determined.
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“Chris is a modern day Louis Armstrong,” Burnett told Billboard, praising his skills as a musician and as an ambassador for music that ranges across folk, classical, jazz and pop.
Thile and his group Punch Brothers served as the house band for the event, held at the Buffalo Club in Santa Monica, backing the film’s star Oscar Isaac as well as guests invited by the film’s music producer T Bone Burnett, among them Steve Martin on banjo, Anti- recording act the Milk Carton Kids, Willie Watson and Rhiannon Giddens of the Carolina Chocolate Drops. Burnett, whose freshly launched Electromagnetic Recordings is housed at Capitol Music Group, will begin recording an album with Giddens in January.
Rare for a Hollywood movie soiree, people stuffed into the performance space heeded Burnett’s request for silence during the performances of folk tunes and bluegrass numbers, many of the from the film. Punch Brothers opened the first of two sets with “Tumbling Tumbleweeds” and the ensuing highlights were plentiful: Giddens stomping her way through Ethel Waters’ 1925 classic “No Man’s Mama”; Nickel Creek covering Bob Dylan’s “Tomorrow is a Long Time” and performing the instrumental ballad “Scotch and Chocolate”; Milk Carton Kids sparking comparisons to Simon & Garfunkel and the Everly Brothers with their own songs about leaving New York and trekking through Michigan; and ensemble performances led by Isaac on the film’s “Fare Thee Well (Dink’s Song)” and Dylan’s “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere.”
The audience was about as eclectic as one might see — Barbra Streisand and James Brolin, Moby, Norman Lear, composer Henry Jackman, Marisa Tomei, Josh Gad, Rosanna Arquette, former Fox Music president Robert Kraft and Americana Music Association president Jed Hilly.
Representing “Inside Llewyn Davis” were the director-writers Joel and Ethan Coen, producer Scott Rudin, and actors John Goodman and Stark Sands. The film’s co-stars, Justin Timberlake and Carey Mulligan, did not attend. The film, the Grand Prix winner at Cannes this year, opens in theaters Dec. 6; Nonesuch released the soundtrack Nov. 11.
A Nonesuch spokeswoman said plans are too preliminary to discuss Nickel Creek, a bluegrass trio of then-teens that formed in Southern California in 1990 and found unprecedented success in the genre. Their self-titled debut from 2000 has sold 1.1 million copies, according to SoundScan and their last album, 2005’s “Why Should the Fire Die?” hit No. 17 on the Billboard 200.
When asked what her upcoming recording plans were, Sarah Watkins chose to pretty much not answer the question, smiling and coyly saying “we’ll see.”