Christian Kiefer

Dogs & Donkeys

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Following his album-length collaboration with the more trad-minded British folk singer Sharron Kraus, on which Christian Kiefer's characteristic hushed bedroom-folk material seemed slightly out of place, Dogs & Donkeys is a far more solid and assured set. Indeed, second track "Pretty White Clouds" may well be Kiefer's best song yet, a piano-led ballad with close harmony vocals that sounds like a dream cross between the Jayhawks and Neutral Milk Hotel. Guest spots by Low's Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker, Wilco's Nels Cline (whose startling entrance about three minutes into the centerpiece track "Economic Theory" is the album's musical high point) and, most impressively, the Band's Garth Hudson make plain Kiefer's expanded musical palette: this is his most musically rich and finely detailed effort yet. Five records into his career, Kiefer has finally hit a musical stride that befits his always sharp lyrical focus; the trio of collaborations with Sparhawk and Parker ("Afterglow," "Coronation Day" and "Stay") two-thirds of the way into the album sound not like a Low record with a guest singer, but like an amalgam of all of the principals, showing that Kiefer has reached the point where he has a sound that transcends his influences.

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