I turned on the radio this morning—as the snow fell gently, ominously outside—and caught a lovely set by Sara and Sean Watkins at the end of “A Prairie Home Companion.” I was never a big fan of Nickel Creek, the pop-bluegrass trio fronted by mandolin prodigy Chris Thile that made them famous; among other things, there was something a little too precious about Sara Watkins’ high, delicate voice in that context. But today, it emerged from my radio with a silvery, beguiling sweetness.
I had the unexpected good fortune to see Watkins perform live a few weeks ago at the Lizard Lounge in Cambridge, that magical musical cave tucked away in the bowels of Cambridge Common. Singer/songwriter Kristin Andreassen was opening for The Sweetback Sisters (souped-up honky-tonk from Brooklyn), and Watkins, in town on tour with The Decemberists (ever heard of them?), was a surprise guest in Andreassen’s set. There, in the dark hush of that close underground room, she sang this exquisite little number—and for a moment, waltzed us right out of dreary winter: