Gorgeous bluegrass shaded with a blend of contemporary pop and rock influences, the San Diego trio Nickel Creek's supple, earthy tones blow gracefully across genre-bending arrangements. Their new album, Why Should the Fire Die?, transcends categorization, and while it doesn't fully break with their Americana pedigree and the style of prior producer Alison Krauss, there's no denying producers Tony Berg (Michael Penn, Squeeze) and Eric Valentine (Smash Mouth, Good Charlotte) accentuate Nickel Creek's dulcet pop melodicism as much as the rootsy aspects. But what's most striking are the moments -- on tracks such as "Helena" and "When in Rome" -- when the evocative sweep aspires to the overcast, art-damaged pop of Radiohead. Playing together since they were teens in the late '80s, the members of Nickel Creek have finally reached the point where their great musicianship and inventiveness could help them bridge the gap between "NPR music" and pop success.
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