An Imaginary Line From CSN to Sarah Jarosz, Aoife O’Donovan & Sara Watkins
I awoke this morning with a throbbing left foot. I wore the black boots last night and my toes unconsciously tapped throughout the seventy-five minute set and the well deserved encore that was delivered by three talented singers, songwriters, and instrumentalists. On a beautiful summer night in the Spanish Courtyard of the Rosen House, located on the lush grounds of the Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts which is a mere sixty minutes north of Manhattan, I kept my eyes closed for much of time to shut out the visual and allow just the sounds of nature melded with the music to pour over the tip of my head and fill my body and soul. The only distraction to my thoughts and immersion were the whoops and cheers that punctuated the close of each song.
Many of us here have known, followed, and enjoyed the artistic talents and work product of these three. Sara from Nickel Creek, her solo albums, that Decemberists’ tour and the Watkins Family Hour which includes brother Sean and what seems to be a revolving cast. Aoife from years on the road and in the studio with Crooked Still, and most recently her solo album. And Sarah, who just turned 24 slightly over a month ago, with an already stunning list of achievements with her albums and collaborative performances.
As I listened to a set that was in equal measure traditional and contemporary, and shifted from covers unexpected to original-familiar, I created an imaginary narrative that took me back almost fifty years ago to the formation of a group with three other musicians: Crosby, Stills and Nash.
While the oft-told story of their coming together has shifted over time like sand on a beach, the one we accept is that Nash was living with Joni in Laurel Canyon and she brought the three of them together for simply a day of fun. And maybe it was Mama Cass. Whatever. One thing led to another, a slot was offered and accepted at the Woodstock festival and an album of virtually perfected tone and harmony resulted. What came after…it doesn’t really pertain to this storyline.
The thread or line I imagine is about taking unique and personal styles, blending experience, skill sets and an obvious friendship and respect toward each other, and creating something new from it. It’s hard enough to begin, almost impossible to endure, and a joy for an audience to witness.
For these three…SAS is not the moniker of choice I would assume, so let’s stay with the I’m With Her tour theme…the idea to play together germinated at last year’s Telluride festival and was allowed to grow in Brooklyn, like the tree before it. As I have lived bi-coastal and experienced the different energies of Los Angeles and New York, it wouldn’t feel wrong to contrast the artistic and creative wilderness of Laurel Canyon where three men came together a long time ago, with the urban and supportive artistic bubble of the borough across the East River that is now a breeding ground for the likes of these three women.
The concert dates so far have for the most part been overseas, the only website merely a rudimentary Tumblr page and with this project they seem to have kept out of the usual media runway and spotlight with the exception of these videos I’m sharing that have been posted along the way. There is a promise of an album, and I would guess a more official type of invitation for a wider audience to experience the music. For now, those of us catching them as the wave rises find ourselves of a privileged class.
With a new project being released soon from the Watkins Family Hour and a string of dates that will keep Sara busy, the three have a small number of summer and fall domestic dates scheduled. In addition to the show last night at Caramoor, there are only three more this month, one in August and two in September. To catch them them perform at one of these events would be like picking up a handful of seashells and being blessed to find just a few that are as close to perfection as you’ll get.