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In concert: Sara Watkins at Jammin' Java

sara watkinsNickel Creek's Sara Watkins as grown into an accomplished solo performer. (All photos by Kyle Gustafson/FTWP)

By Juli Thanki

While pushing blonde locks behind her ear Sara Watkins mock-grumbled "My stupid hair is in my face. I feel like Justin Bieber." Like the carefully coiffed teen idol, Watkins knows a little something about being young and in the music business: she began an 18-year stint as a member of progressive bluegrass band Nickel Creek at an age when most are still trying to master cursive writing.

(Well chosen covers, plus more pictures after the jump.)

sara watkins

Now 28, she's gone solo. Backed by a trio that included older brother (and fellow Creeker) Sean on guitar, Watkins delighted an adoring Jammin' Java crowd with a set largely composed of well-chosen covers that ranged from Tom Waits' mournful hobo song "Pony" to a barn-burning version of bluegrass king Jimmy Martin's "Hold Whatcha Got." Though she's primarily a fiddler, Watkins picked up the ukulele for a handful of tunes, the highlight of which was her delicate, breathy take on "Different Drum," complete with uke solo.

Few and far between were originals, but fans got the chance to hear new material from both Watkins siblings, including a Norah Jones-meets-Loretta Lynn breakup tune "Miss My Kisses." Sara and Sean also showcased their bluegrass chops on a pair of breakneck fiddle tunes and their chugging alt-country take on Dylan's "Forever Young" was perhaps the best part of the 19 song set.

When faced with tuning problems Watkins eschewed traditional onstage banter for a deliberately corny "a man walks into a bar" joke. But if sitting through lame - yet somehow incredibly charming - humor is the only way to hear her lively Western Swing version of Jimmie Rodgers' Depression Era classic "Any Old Time," it's more than worth it.

sara watkins

sara watkins

sara watkins

By David Malitz  |  April 21, 2010; 1:15 PM ET
Categories:  In concert  | Tags: Nickel Creek, Sara Watkins  
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