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Sun Midnight Sun

4.3 out of 5 stars 35 customer reviews

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Audio CD, May 8, 2012
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Editorial Reviews

Sun Midnight Sun is the second solo album from acclaimed singer, songwriter, and fiddle player Sara Watkins. Produced by guitarist, singer, and songwriter Blake Mills, co-founder of the band Simon Dawes, the album features special guest appearances by Fiona Apple, Jackson Browne, Taylor Goldsmith (Dawes), Benmont Tench, and Sean Watkins.

Sun Midnight Sun follows Sara Watkins' critically acclaimed 2009 self-titled solo debut produced by John Paul Jones. NPR said Sara Watkins "puts her great instrumental breadth on display as she plays the guitar, ukulele and fiddle in addition to her sweet-voiced singing," and the Kansas City Star called it a record "for anyone who likes the sound of a good singer and a good band hammering out good music."

In the three years after her debut release, Watkins toured the world as guest fiddle player and vocalist with the Decemberists and joined Garrison Keillor on his nationwide Summer Love performance tours, as well as acting as his first and only guest host for A Prairie Home Companion broadcasts.

Sun Midnight Sun was recorded, mixed, and mastered by Shawn Everett at Zeitgeist Studio, Los Angeles, and includes songs written by Watkins ("You and Me," "Take Up Your Spade") as well as several collaborations with Mills ("The Foothills," "Be There," "The Accord," "Impossible," and "Lock and Key"). It also features songs by Dan Wilson ("When It Pleases You") and Willie Nelson ("I'm a Memory"), and a rendition of The Everly Brothers classic "You're the One I Love," on which Fiona Apple duets with Watkins.
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Digital Booklet: Sun Midnight Sun
Digital Booklet: Sun Midnight Sun
Album Only

Product Details

  • Audio CD (May 8, 2012)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Nonesuch
  • ASIN: B007NUQHG6
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #11,304 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
Sara Watkins throws a bone to her old Nickel Creek fans by opening up "Sun Midnight Sun" with "The Foothills", one of the album's two instrumental numbers.
It's a zippy bluegrass tune, driven forward by Watkins' furious fiddle playing, and it's the closest she ever comes to the rustic sound of her former band.
Watkins doesn't completely forsake the farm for the city on this solo release, but she does stretch her arms quite a bit, pulling in everything from quirky indie pop to West Coast folk-rock to harmony-drenched Americana.
She nets a few big-name collaborators, too, with people like Jackson Browne, Benmont Tench, and Fiona Apple (who lays down some deep harmonies on a galloping, spaghetti western version of the Everly Brothers' "You're the One I Love") stopping by for a song or two.
This is clearly the Sara Watkins show, though, even when she relies on producer Blake Mills to help her co-write the album's best tunes, and she's never sounded better as a singer.
She croons like a country star on "Be There", a sad-eyed, twangy duet whose guitar riff pays tribute to Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time", and chastises a reluctant lover with a sharp, flirty coo on "When It Pleases You".
The rest of "Sun Midnight Sun" bounces between pastoral folk and big-city pop/rock, often blurring the lines between the two, and the album comes full circle with its closer, "Take Up Your Spade", a campfire singalong that roughly approximates Watkins' more acoustic beginnings.
It's not as polished as the other tracks, but it's a helpful reminder that even when you strip back the eccentric arrangements and lush production, Watkins can still deliver. A. Leahey
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Format: Audio CD
I like Sara's first solo record and enjoy her appearances on Prairie Home Companion. I expected more of the same from this new album. I was surprised and a little bewildered.

Most of the songs do not have much of a bluegrass sound. There is fiddle, of course, but if I came to this CD fresh without knowing anything about Sara Watkins and had to categorize it, I would probably call it Singer-Songwriter or some such. (Although she did not write all of these songs.) More pop than bluegrass. I almost hear a little 60s vibe sometimes, like Jan & Dean or Beach Boys balladry. It is definitely a more mature sound and it's good that she is stretching her musical wings. The harmonies with her brother Sean are sweet as always.

Frankly, I'm not in love after the first listen. The final song Take Up Your Spade is the best for me. It has more of a gospel/inspirational feel. I am giving it 4 stars because I expect to like it more after I get comfortable with it. Sara Watkins has a great voice and is an accomplished musician. If this is the record she wanted to make, I respect that. I just need to get over my preconceptions and listen again with fresh ears.
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Format: MP3 Music Verified Purchase
This is Sara Watkins second solo effort and it is a winner. Since striking out on her own from Nickel Creek, Sara Watkins has now produced two (with a third coming) stellar albums featuring her gorgeous voice and great guitar playing. She, along with several other women, seem to be conspiring to bring bluegrass to a prominent place on the American music scene. It's true she has some big name help on this album, but the result is all Sara Watkins vision.
I'm afraid I can't name a favorite song right now, since my current answer is, "What's playing?"
I know this is a short review, but I don't need to go into great detail so state the obvious: this is a great album by an emerging solo star and it belongs in your collection.
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Format: Vinyl Verified Purchase
Sara Watkins continues to shine. The songs may not be as memorable as her work with Nickel Creek, but they are still solid compositions that provide a nice platform for great music making. The band often steals the show, although some of the BG energy is missing here. I purchased the vinyl version, which a beautiful package.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
As a long time fan of Nickel Creek and its spinoffs, I highly anticipate all their releases. Sara's first solo album is a near masterpiece. This one, however, has left me a bit bewildered. It's good, and I love that she's changed her formula and seems to be exploring a bit. But I'm finding portions of some songs to be "screechy," if you will. It's either the upfront high notes of her fiddle or too much singing at the top end of her range, or both, but I'm repeatedly skipping those tracks. I think at high volume it's more evident so I simply don't crank this one up. Despite this, she's a superb singer/musician and there are some gems on this album. She's so talented and has done so much great work, it's impossible for her to one-up herself upon each release so we can't expect that. If you're a fan, adding this to your collection is a no-brainer.
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Format: MP3 Music Verified Purchase
Sara Watkins is a refreshing musical talent. There is a definite element of innovation and evolution when compared with her previous album on display here and while it doesn't always land 100% of the time, the effort is admirable and it makes for an album that you can return to and find new things to joy with each new rotation.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I hate to be the lone dissenting voice of all the reviewers but I don't care for this album. It has its interesting parts but, overall, it's pretty weak. The only thing I wanted to do through most of the album was fast forward to the next song in hopes that things got better. They didn't. Sara is a good singer and a talented musician. I have her other CD and all of Nickel Creek's stuff and I love them, but this one just didn't have very good songs, in my opinion. The production was kind of rough also. Most of it had a very coarse, unfinished quality to it. Sorry, Sara, I'm sure your next one will be better.
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