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Why Should the Fire Die?
Artist: Nickel Creek
Label: Sugar Hill Records
Length: 14/47:20

Nickel Creek reveals that not all is well in their world on Why Should the Fire Die?  Rather than relying on their trademark upbeat instrumentals and lyrics of the past, their third album for Sugar Hill portrays man's struggle in the real world, of broken and misguided relationships, of faltering faith, of conflict, unrealistic love, and occasionally, peace.  In short, it is sometimes disturbing lyrically, with music that never drops below the unbelievably high standards this band has set for themselves.

"When in Rome" leads off the disc, and sets forth the idea that these songs will be different.  It addresses peer pressure, and possibly something deeper, the potential for a man's soul to be in turmoil if all he does is spend time trying to fit in:

Where can a dead man go
A question with an answer only dead men know
But I'm gonna bet they never really feel at home
If they spent a lifetime learning how to live in Rome.
"Somebody More like You" is a bitter breakup song, while "Jealous of the Moon" (Co-written by Chris Thile and Gary Louris of the Jayhawks) portrays a friend desperate for help, but too proud to ask for it.  "Tomorrow is a Long Time," and "Anthony" show off Sara Watkins' vocal abilities, something long time fans have been clamoring for for quite some time.  Sean Watkins is featured playing ukulele on the latter.

"Can't Complain" depicts a couple in the throes of a miserable existence, together for reasons that are incomprehensible, other than the protagonist's lame defense that he warned her about the way he was before they got together.  His continued tolerance for his own horrible behavior is disturbing at best, creepy and pathetic to most.

"Best of Luck," a Thile-Sean Watkins work, is shockingly realistic in its view of a man seemingly happy in his marriage, but on the verge of throwing it all away in order to pursue a former love.  It is bracing in its reality, and in just how fragile relationships can be if not maintained properly.

"Doubting Thomas" resonates with those who have endured crises of faith, and those wanting to believe, despite their doubts:

Can I be used to help other find truth
When I'm scared I'll find proof that it's a lie
Can I be lead down a trail dropping bread crumbs
That prove I'm not ready to die?
"Scotch and Chocolate" and "Stumptown" are the requisite instrumental bluegrass jams that drew fans to the group originally. With a new depth of lyrics and a darker view of life in general, some will be thrown off by Nickel Creek's new approach.  Personally, I think it may be their best album as a whole.  Why Should the Fire Die? Both the individual song and the concept of the album are determined that it doesn't have to, but the work involved and the frailties of our own personalities make it clear that it will be a difficult, often painful process.

Brian A. Smith  8/1/2005



Nickel Creek goes back to their roots on their latest effort Why Should the Fire Die? As their last CD was more left of center, this one features the band in their prime. Each song is a complete package, idea, and concept. Why Should the Fire Die? largest asset is in its exploration of sounds. While keeping their bluegrass roots, they have explored many musical styles and genres while making them their own.

The first track, "When in Rome" sets the stage for the overall consistent sound of the album.  Dark, urgent and poignant.  The beautiful "Doubting Thomas" is a soothing, folk song about faith and the afterlife.  Simple and direct featuring the main voices of singer Chris Thile and fiddle by Sara Watkins.  "Somebody More Like You" a standout tune about breakup and would make the great first single.  Wonderful riffs and atmosphere accented by two part harmonies that are sorrowful in their sympathy.  "Helena" rocks out loud.  Power and might are the main energy here.  The band is at it's most complex on this song and surely showcases their full capacities. The CD ends with the title track and it is a great finale song.  With soothing melodies and harmonies, it short and sweet with essential touchstones to their contemporaries.

As their third effort, Nickel Creek have proven themselves to be sustainable in a very fickle business.  One of the best acoustic bands in the industry today; Nickel Creek will be around for a long while.  More info: nickelcreek.com.

Jon Rice 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 
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