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October 24, 2005 // UPDATED 1:59 pm - April 26, 2007
By: Micheal Metzger
Micheal Metzger

Up the Creek

Can a band move too fast for its early adopters? It seems that Nickel Creek might be doing just that.

This band just barely fits into the progressive bluegrass label attached to it way back when it first began to receive national attention. These days, Nickel Creek is closer to creating their own genre that is made up of scorching bits and smoldering pieces of bluegrass, indie-progressive rock, classic rock, folk, pop and country. There are also some unidentified flying sounds that might have originally generated in the Middle East somewhere, broadcast on a crackly radio in Appalachia, and then channeled through the feet and boots of an angry, stomping Irishman. Maybe.

Nickel Creek is evolving. Fiddler Sara Watkins, guitarist Sean Watkins (her older brother) and banjo-mandolin-bouzouki player Chris Thile formed the group in 1989 in San Diego.

Thile’s father, Scott Thile, originally played bass for what was then a group of precocious preteens following in the footsteps of prog-grass pioneers Alison Krauss and Bela Fleck.

Krauss produced the first two Nickel Creek albums; this time around, the group left her behind in favor of producers Tony Berg (Aimee Mann, Bruce Hornsby, Public Image Ltd. — one of John Lydon’s post-Sex Pistols bands — and alterna-rocker Edie Brickell) and Eric Valentine (hemp-rock icons Queens of the Stone Age and ska-punksters Smash Mouth).

As soon as you pop the new CD, “Why Should the Fire Die?” into your player, it etches a place of its own in your mind. The opening cut, “When in Rome” carves out an edgier, darker tone than the group has ever embraced before.

The group can still make nice-nice when it wants to, however. Nickel Creek’s honeyed cover of Bob Dylan’s “Tomorrow Is a Long Time” might be worth the price of admission alone.

This is a band changing the way we understand music and words such as “bluegrass.” They’re agents of change; young Darwinists carrying the past into a future that can’t be anticipated. Don’t be left behind.

The Ditty Bops open the show.

• Sa Oct. 29, 8 p.m. State Theatre, 805 Hennepin Ave. S. $25-$28.50. 339-7007, www.hennepintheatredistrict.org.