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Almost a decade ago, Sean Watson, his sister Sara Watson, and their friend Chris Thile thought it was time to quit making music together for a while. The trio had been playing together as Nickel Creek since they were children and decided they wanted to explore some other projects. The good news is that they are back. And with A Dotted Line, their first album in nine years, they sound as tight and together as they did on their previous albums.

This guitar, violin, and mandolin trio play bluegrass music that has as much in common with modern folk and pop as it does with traditional bluegrass. As with their previous work, some songs hint at their faith (especially “21st of May”), but most of the songs speak of relationships and of love. They also throw in songs like “Elephant in the Corn” that are just good instrumental workouts and which show off their bluegrass skills. The high point of the album, though, is the closing song, a cover of Sam Phillips’s beautiful “Where Is Love Now.” The singing and playing are gorgeous and bring the album to a hushed and emotional close. (Nonesuch Records)

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