Singer-songwriter Sara Watkins has made quite the name for herself over the years as a member of the bluegrass group Nickel Creek and as part of the Watkins Family Hour and I’m With Her. Now this Friday, Watkins will take her first step into another phase of her career with her debut family music album, Under the Pepper Tree. The 15-song first outing is a presentation that will appeal to her fans and those of one Diana Panton. That is due in part to the song’s that make up the album’s body. They will be discussed shortly. The musical arrangements that Watkins employs throughout the album add to its appeal and will be discussed a little later. The sequencing of that overall content puts the finishing touch to the record and will also be discussed later. Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the album. All things considered, Sarah Watkins’ debut family music album is a successful offering that the whole family will indeed enjoy.
Sara Watkins’ debut family music album is a work that the whole family truly will enjoy. That is due in part to its featured songs. The songs in question are a selection of songs from various classic movies. Bob Nolan’s ‘Tumblin’ Tumbleweed,’ from Gene Autry’s 1935 movie by the same name is featured here along with the likes of ‘Edelweiss’ from 20th Century Fox’s adaptation of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s musical, The Sound of Music (1965), and ‘When You Wish Upon a Star’ from Disney’s classic Pinocchio (1940). Also represented here is ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ from 20th Century Fox’s adaptation of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s musical, Carousel (1956); ‘La la Lu’ from Disney’s Lady and the Tramp (1955) and even ‘Moon River’ from Paramount Pictures’ 1961 movie, Breakfast at Tiffany’s. There is even an original tune in the form of the album’s title track along with everything else. The songs will relate to listeners of all ages because they are all timeless works that the noted audiences will remember. Given, parents will recognize some of the songs more than children, but that aside, those songs will still entertain younger listeners.
On another level, that some of the songs (and their related movies) will connect more with older audiences than with children. That in itself serves as a starting point for older audiences to offer younger listeners the most basic introduction to so many classic musicals and movies. That early introduction could help lead to a lifelong love for said presentations. So while on the surface, the songs make up a collective of soundtrack works, they actually can and do serve an even greater purpose, bringing families together while building a foundation and love for the great timeless works of stage and screen from entertainment’s golden age. To that end, the songs featured in this compilation form a solid foundation for the record itself. It is just one part of what makes the recording so enjoyable. The arrangements that Watkins chose for these songs adds to the record’s overall appeal.
Watkins largely stays true to the source material in each song that she features in her new record, from one to the next. For all of that honor that Watkins pays to the original works, she still gives them her own nice touch. Case in point is her take on ‘Stay Awake.’ Originally featured as one of the songs from Disney’s 1964 musical adaptation of author P.L. Travers’ novel Mary Poppins, the song was a gentle lullabye crafted by the famed Sherman Brothers, Richard and Robert. It featured Julie Andrews’ absolutely stunning vocal control alongside some even more subtle strings. Watkins’ take on the song would have fit just as well into that movie. It is just as moving with its piano line joining with the strings to make the song even richer. Watkins’ over vocal delivery is so powerful in its simplicity here, too. Ironically though being a lullaby, Watkins’ take on the song is enough to make even the most emotionally strong man blubber like a baby. That is a telling statement.
On a different note, Watkins’ take on Bob Nolan’s ‘Tumbling Tumblewood’ stays even truer to its source material, complete with fiddle and the slightest touch of a slide guitar. Of course, gone are the clip-clop of the horse hoofs and the string arrangement featured in the original song performed by Roy Rogers and the Sons of the Pioneers. Instead, Watkins has opted here for the more spit-shined take that even what with everything in mind, the song still sounds quite a bit like something that one might hear playing in the old honky tonk joints of country music’s golden era. To that point, it is still its own unique arrangement.
‘Moon River’ is another example of the importance of the musical arrangements featured in Watkins’ new record. Her take on the song does stay true to its source material for the most part, stylistically. Though there are some subtle differences between the original version composed by Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer, and sung by Audrey Hepburn, and Watkins’ take. Right off the bat, the string arrangements and the harmonica featured in the original are absent in Watkins’ rendition. They are replaced here by the subtle addition of a Hammond organ. Watkins’ own vocal delivery bears its own identity here. Her delivery is just as soft and gentle as that of Hepburn and almost as airy. That whole set against the whole of the original makes Watkins’ take here just as interesting as the other covers featured in the compilation. When those other songs are considered with this arrangement and the others examined here, the whole leaves no doubt as to the importance of the recording’s overall musical content. When that content is considered along with the featured songs themselves, that whole gives listeners even more to like. When all of that is considered along with the record’s sequencing, the record is rounded out and completed.
The sequencing of Under the Pepper Tree keeps the album’s energy light from beginning to end of its 36-minute run time, starting off relaxed in her take of ‘Blue Shadows on the Trail.’ The energy really does not pick back up until late in the album’s run in Watkin’s take of ‘Blanket for a Sail.’ Up until that point, the energy remains relatively reserved. It pulls back again from there right up to the album’s finale, ‘Good Night.’ So basically what audiences get overall due to the sequencing here, is a record that will serve to relax any listener. As a matter of fact, one might even be able to use the record to help get to sleep being that the record’s energy is so gentle. Between that, the unique takes on the songs and the very selection of songs, the whole makes the record in whole a work that is a truly successful family music album.
Sara Watkins’ debut family music album Under the Pepper Tree is a positive new offering that the whole family will indeed enjoy. That is due in part to the record’s featured songs, the majority of which are timeless songs that are themselves featured in some of the most famous and beloved movies of all time. The arrangements that Watkins presents here are themselves important to the record’s presentation. They stay largely true to their source material but also give the songs the slightest of updates, making for even more appeal. The sequencing of this overall content keeps the record’s energy relatively light and reserved throughout the record’s nearly 40-minute run time. That means the record’s overall energy will keep listeners relaxed. That will result in a positive mindset for any listener. Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of this record. All things considered, they make the record in whole a successful first family music outing for Sarah Watkins. Under the Pepper Tree is scheduled for release Friday through New West Records. More information on the album is available along with all of Watkins’ latest news at:
To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to https://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.