album reviews

Fiction Family
Fiction Family
ATO Records (2009)

Sean Watkins always seemed to be the underdog of his bluegrass trio, Nickel Creek: His vocals and guitar-playing, though solid, never attracted the instant attention garnered by the honey-sweet vocals of sister Sara and the fiery mandolin melodies of Chris Thile. Instead of using Nickel Creek's indefinite hiatus to record a fourth solo album, Sean joined forces with Switchfoot's Jon Foreman on the project Fiction Family.

Despite Fiction Family's collaborative nature, its acoustic melodies and sweet vocal harmonies more closely resemble Nickel Creek's sound than Switchfoot's passionate alterna-rock. The self-titled debut is more cohesive than one would expect from a compilation of ideas swapped while each band was touring, but all those months on the road certainly influence the tone of the album. "Betrayal" and "Not Sure" convey a sense of longing and heartbreak; that air of wistfulness ties the songs on this album together. Watkins and Foreman switch vocal duties, but it isn't always immediately apparent (nor truly important) who's at the lead microphone. The resulting sweet harmonies make "Fiction Family" a solid set of near-duets from two diverse, accomplished musicians.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post: 23 January 2009, Page WE08
.: Fiction Family on