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Watkins Family Hour

Brother Sister – 2020 (Family Hour Records/Thirty Tigers)

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

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CDs by Watkins Family Hour

Sean Watkins is the brother, while Sara Watkins is the sister in this Watkins Family sibling act. Both are also members of Nickel Creek, with Sean playing guitar and Sara playing fiddle. Both are strong musicians, and their collaboration will likely please fans of Nickel Creek's youthful, enthusiastic take on bluegrass.

Mike Viola (Jenny Lewis, Mandy Moore) produced and mostly keeps the duo's acoustic instincts intact. In fact, this album shines brightest whenever there are no vocals at all, as with "Snow Tunnel." Lyrically, however, this pair doesn't sound like it has much to say, as few of these songs feature lyrics or musical hooks that stick with listeners after the album finishes. This shortfall is especially made clear when its originals are compared to the album's two covers - Warren Zevon's "Accidentally Like a Martyr" and Charley Jordan's '30s swing tune, "Keep It Clean." With the Zevon track, these two invest their vocals with the sincere emotion demanded by its thoughtful words, while "Keep It Clean" is so joyful, Sara can be heard exclaiming at track's end, "That was fun!"

None of these songs match the depth of Zevon, nor do they work up the same enthusiasm as Jordan inspires. Sean Watkins admits that the opening song, "The Cure," was inspired by watching "Tidying Up With Marie Kondo," and these homegrown songs are about as forgettable as a reality show. It's disappointing to find a largely unmemorable full-length coming from two amazing musicians, but some family albums - much like home movies - are best kept in the family.