MUSIC REVIEWS: Nickel Creek

Why Should the Fire Die? Sugar Hill
Music ••• Sound •••½
They may have been preteens when they began performing together, but Chris Thile (on mandolin) and siblings Sara and Sean Watkins (on fiddle and guitar) are now 24, 24, and 28 - acoustic wunderkinds no more. Yet while there's nothing wrong with striving to mature into serious artists, the trio's third collection reveals that their songwriting skills could still use some schooling - especially that of chief composer Thile, whose murky, all-too-personal lyrics just don't make much of an impression. Not surprisingly, it's the instrumentals that work best here, notably the moody, "Rosemary's Baby"-like "First and Last Waltz" and the spry, Celtic-flecked "Scotch & Chocolate." And Sara's gorgeous take on Bob Dylan's "Tomorrow Is a Long Time" is nearly worth the price of admission all by itself.
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