The Be Good Tanyas

Chinatown

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    8
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AllMusic Review by

The homespun, slightly quirky approach that guided the Be Good Tanyas on Blue Horse permeates their enigmatically titled sophomore release too. If anything, these performances beckon the listener even more into the material, as a fiery hearth might draw strangers together on a cold night. The singing is raggedy and breathy, the instruments gently strummed or stroked; like whispered intimacies, these elements cast a conversational spell. When something extra is added, it comes in minimal doses -- a sprinkle of barely audible electric guitar and unobtrusive strings enhance, rather than delete, the acoustic ambience on "Dogsong 2," while two cameos by Olu Dara stir memories of Joni Mitchell's early tapestries of folk and jazz. No single tracks stand out, but that may be intentional; by sustaining its blurry, wistful mood with neither gimmick nor interruption, Chinatown feels like an evening well spent with old friends.

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