All in the Family, and More, at UC Santa Barbara’s Campbell Hall

The “Watkins Family Hour” Brings its Road Show to Town, via UCSB Arts & Lectures

Credit: Jacob Boll

Welcome to the story about a musical family named Watkins. They came from the backwoods of Vista, California, with fiddles, guitars, honey-pure voices, and a new-grassy notion or three, and took their listening public by friendly storm, humbly but firmly, with longevity to boot. By now, the Watkins siblings — singer extraordinaire and fiddler Sara and guitarist-vocalist Sean — have cemented their place in American, and especially Americana, music, in solo mode and with their seminal band Nickel Creek. That band originally featured mandolinist wizard Chris Thile, a frequent Santa Barbara visitor along with the Watkinses.

Credit: Jacob Boll

On Tuesday, November 29, Campbell Hall is the roosting place for the “road version” of the band. Now two decades old, the Watkins Family Hour took root in the affable Los Angeles venue Largo and became a phenom all its own. The Watkinses have held down a monthly residency there, inviting a wide variety of guests to sit in, including Jackson Browne and the ever-inventive Fiona Apple, both of whom appear on the Family’s album, Watkins Family Hour Vol. II.

The new album neatly summarizes a project difficult to summarize. The sound and attitude is rootsy, but the song list is a varied garden, framed by The Zombies’ “The Way I Feel Inside” and Santa Barbara’s own Glen Phillips’s secular-spiritual anthem “Grief and Praise.” Also in the mix are Ernest Tubbs’s “Thanks a Lot,” Dean Martin’s “(Remember Me) I’m the One Who Loves You,” and Elliott Smith’s “Pitseleh.” Somehow, the pieces all fit in the Watkins-ized puzzle.

Joining the literal family members onstage at Campbell Hall will be pedal steel player Don Heffington and singer-songwriter Margaret Glaspy. It’s one big, happy, and ever-expanding family affair.

See artsandlectures.ucsb.edu.


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