Sara Watkins: Sun Midnight Sun

Sara Watkins
Sun Midnight Sun
(Nonesuch Records)

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Sara Watkins gained recognition among other musicians because of her fiddle playing. It’s not a surprise then that on Sun Midnight Sun, her fiddle firmly plants the overall tone as fun, bouncy, and jovial. Listening to her expertly and rapidly push her bow across the strings, and the beautiful notes that are produced, makes the rest of the album seem full of smiles and contentment (even when it’s about missed-by-just-this-much love, and holding on to heartbreak because nothing else makes sense). That being said, “The Foothills” is the must-listen to instrumental track that opens the album up.

She follows it up with a couple of pop-country gems. “You and Me,” in which she sings, “I remember the night/I remember day… I remember you/and I remember me,” drips with a light-hearted nostalgia. This is quickly followed by the star power of Fiona Apple as accompaniment, which is a barn romper, boots kicking, fast-paced hoedown.

“When It Pleases You” goes back to the pop power of “You and Me” and shows off the bitter-tinged vocals of Sara Watkins. She is accusing (“I’m making it too easy for you to hang on loosely/I’ve been holding on, and dreaming on for you to come back to me”) but it’s in a shaken head, sighing, resigned way that these things happen in love.

Watkins captures everything bluegrass invokes: adept fiddle playing, hopeless or unrequited love, and the light-hearted almost laughing way people talk about heartbreak only when they’ve had a little bit to drink and have loosened up. Sun Midnight Sun is “Hey look at my life, it’s really sad, but I always get such good bar stories for you all.”

Watkins, at her most intimate, leans in and whispers “But we can still win this/We’re still in the game/Don’t leave me hanging/Please be there when I get home.”

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