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Album review | AMERICANA

Watkins Family Hour, ‘Watkins Family Hour’

What began as an informal jam session, a safe place to test new material and just have fun, has turned into an album of equally casual charm. Sara and Sean Watkins, the siblings and multi-instrumentalists who first made their name with Nickel Creek, had been hosting a monthly variety show at Largo, the Los Angeles club, and decided to take it into a studio and on the road. Their new debut album, “Watkins Family Hour,” retains all the homespun intimacy of a bunch of musicians enjoying one another’s company and talent. In this case, they happen to be high-profile musicians: singer-songwriter Fiona Apple, pedal steel and dobro player Greg Leisz, keyboardist Benmont Tench, drummer Don Heffington, and bassist Sebastian Steinberg. Together, they’re all over the map for this collection of covers, from Sara’s freewheeling reinvention of the traditional “Hop High” to Apple’s agitated intensity on “Where I Ought to Be,” a country tearjerker made famous by Skeeter Davis. (Out Friday)

James Reed

ESSENTIAL “Hop High”

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Watkins Family Hour will perform at Friday’s portion of this weekend’s sold-out Newport Folk Festival.