UCSB Arts & Lectures (A&L) will present Watkins Family Hour, 8 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 29 at UCSB’s Campbell Hall. Brother and sister Sean and Sara Watkins bring their Americana musical variety show to town in a special 20th anniversary edition.
The duo are a model of sibling harmony as founding members of Nickel Creek — their Grammy-winning trio with childhood friend Chris Thile — and hosts of a two-decade residency at LA’s famed Largo club. Their new album, “Watkins Family Hour Vol. II,” features guest vocalists including Fiona Apple and Jackson Browne.
The upcoming evening of Americana with the Watkins will include pedal steel virtuoso Rich Hinman and special guest Margaret Glaspy.
The Watkins Family Hour is a collaborative performance and recording project led by the Los Angeles-based Watkins siblings, both of whom came to prominence in the 1990s as part of the progressive bluegrass group Nickel Creek.
Beginning in 2002, they were offered a monthly residency at Largo, which they called the Watkins Family Hour. The gig took on the form of a variety show where the Watkins’ could stretch out musically, working out new material, collaborating with other players and letting loose creatively while in between tours.
Over the years, the Family Hour became a spontaneous meeting place where, on any given night, artists like Fiona Apple, Jackson Browne, Dawes, Nikka Costa, and actor/comedian John C. Reilly might sit in for a set.
In 2015, Sean and Sara decided to turn their show into a recording project, enlisting several of their longtime collaborators to record an album of cover songs under the Watkins Family Hour banner.
Members of their de facto house band include pianist Benmont Tench, pedal steel players Greg Leisz and Rich Hinman, bassist Sebastian Steinberg, drummer Don Heffington, and guest vocalist Fiona Apple, all who appear on the Family Hour’s debut.
In support of the album’s 2015 release, the Watkins took their show on the road using the same variety show-type format comprising a rehearsed set along with unplanned jams and various regional guests.
After spending five years pursuing solo projects, Sara and Sean reunited for a second Watkins Family Hour outing in 2020. Produced by Mike Viola, Brother Sister appeared on Thirty Tigers in April 2020.
The Watkins siblings reverted to the collective formula of the first Watkins Family Hour album for “Watkins Family Hour Vol. II,” a 2022 album that celebrated the duo’s 20 years of performances at the Largo. The record features such familiar figures as Benmont Tench, Fiona Apple, and Jon Brion as well as Jackson Browne, Margaret Glaspy, Lucius and Madison Cunningham.
In Glaspy’s second album “Devotion,” the young artist reaffirms her status as one of the most sharp-eyed singer-songwriters of her generation while managing to audaciously reinvent her sound.
Coming home after nearly three years on the road in support of her 2016 debut album “Emotions and Math,” and the 2018 follow-up “EP Born Yesterday,” Glaspy was eager to challenge herself as an artist and start to make a new album with a clean aesthetic slate.
Her artistry provides tunes that are her most melodically confident, rhythmically compelling, and often romantic. The arrangements are unexpectedly lush at times, especially on the torchy “Heartbreak,” and often boast an impressive groove, on such tracks as “You’ve Got My Number” and the title song, “Devotion.”
Glaspy toured the U.S., Canada, Europe, China and Australia behind “Emotions & Math,” including dates with Wilco and The Lumineers . She also appeared on NPR’s Tiny Desk, CBS Saturday Morning and CONAN.
Finding herself in her Brooklyn apartment after all her travels, Glaspy said, “It was such a shift for me that I didn’t know what to do with myself when I closed that chapter. I was feeling pretty shy. I like to be alone and I had constantly been around people for two or three years straight.
“I took a long breath, reorienting myself, trying to find my way in to get inspired and to get excited about making records again.”
Watkins Family Hour is presented by UCSB Arts & Lectures. Tickets are $30-$45 general public; $15 UCSB students with current student ID required. For tickets or more information, call UCSB Arts & Lectures, 805-893-3535 or buy online at www.ArtsAndLectures.UCSB.edu.