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Watkins Family highlights family values of the very best variety

Largo at the Coronet, Los Angeles, June 29, 2023

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

Watkins Family is two-thirds of Nickel Creek, composed of siblings Sara and Sean Watkins. Their show was one of many such shows these two put on with friends at the esteemed and intimate venue. Tonight, friends included Benmont Tench (from Tom Petty's Heartbreakers), Soul Coughing's Sebastian Steinberg, Madison Cunningham, Bethany Cosentino of Best Coast and drummer Griffin Goldsmith (Dawes). It felt like a family gathering, too, both for the musicians and the audience.

It's a delight just to hear each Watkins perform together. Sara plays fiddle wonderfully and sings beautifully. She's the most enthusiastic one, oftentimes jumping and dancing to the music, while Sean leans a bit to the stoic side. It was sweet to see Sara tap Tench's shoulder each time they wanted the pianist to take a solo. Nevertheless, Sean is a skilled acoustic guitarist, that can make jaw-dropping string work look easy. They sounded best on the old country standard, "Tennessee Waltz," which featured lovely piano accompaniment by Tench. It's a sad song that never sounded sadder.

Cunningham played a couple of songs solo, including "Inventing The Wheel." Saying Cunningham was solo, though, is a bit of misnomer because with all of her guitar gadgetry, she comes off more like a one-woman-band. She plays complicated, progressive rock-leaning guitar parts while singing with a strong, pure voice. She gets labeled a folk artist, but she is far more skilled than such a description might lead you to believe.

Everyone got a short time in the spotlight, as Steinberg sang a sad, old country song, Tench performed a quiet number at the piano (and actually sang!), and Cosentino performed a few songs from her upcoming debut solo album.

The show was opened by Shhhhh, the not-so-quiet folk duo of Rheanna Downey and Molly Jenson. These two harmonized so well together, you almost thought they were family, as well.

Those of us that live in L.A. are truly spoiled. Many in this audience are regulars at Watkins Family shows, where some of the best local artists join them nearly every month to perform music together. These are family values of the very best variety.

©Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
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