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Watkins Family Hour (from the album Vol. II available on Family Hour Records/Thirty Tigers) (by Lee Zimmerman)
Watkins Family Hour encompasses more than simply the sibling relationship between the group’s two principals, Sara and Sean Watkins. In fact, it’s a communal collective spawned from two decades of a residency at L.A.’s landmark Largo nightclub. The third studio album spun off from that ongoing series — questionably dubbed Vol. II — it includes a number of the notables that have taken part in those performances over the years, among them, such notables as Fiona Apple, Jon Brion, Jackson Browne, Madison Cunningham, Lucius, Gaby Moreno, Benmont Tench, and Willie Watson, to name only a few.
Such an all-star cast of West Coast notables might create a preliminary impression that the Watkins themselves might be overshadowed somehow. That’s hardly the case however. Even on those songs featuring the other notables — Browne on “The Late Show”, Watson’s lead on “She Left Me Standing in the Shadow”, and Apple, who takes her turn on “(Remember Me) I’m the One Who Loves You” — it’s the duo’s vocals that take center stage. It’s hard to overshadow Jackson Browne, but they can claim that accomplishment here.
That said, there’s no sense of crowding or competition. A lovely and lilting rendition of the country standard “Tennessee Waltz” offers an ideal example. Belmont Tench’s elegiac piano provides the basic accompaniment, giving the tune a sound akin to that of a heavenly hymn.
In fact, most of the tracks maintain that sense of quiet contemplation, one which perfectly encapsulates the down-home designs that are so essential to the tone and treatment that characterize the live Largo performances. The fact that the set list is entirely cover songs speaks to the absence of ego and unassuming circumstance instead. The easy, understated strains of “On the Outside”, “We Were Meant to Be Together”, “Grief and Praise”, and “The Way I Feel Inside” allow that casual caress to rise to the fore.
Granted, family can be contentious at times. Happily, then, Watkins Family Hour manages to create a bond that’s as soothing as it is satisfying. (By Lee Zimmerman)
Listen and buy the music of Watkins Family Hour from AMAZON
For more information and purchase options, please visit Watkins Family Hour website
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