Cordelia's Dad

Spine

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    8
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By the time Spine appeared, original members Irvine and Eriksen were accompanied by fiddler Laura Risk and vocalist/dulcimer player/accordionist Cath Oss. With Steve Albini handling production, the quartet created a smashing baker's dozen interpretations of folk/roots tunes, given fine arrangements throughout. The group may be playing music as old as the hills, but such is the quality of the band that one could imagine it just being made and recorded the other day. Albini doesn't try and make the recording sound either too brash or too self-consciously "antique" -- the four just sound like themselves, drawing on their abilities with fine results. One of Eriksen's best numbers is the interpretation of "Montcalm and Wolfe," telling the story of the climactic battle of the French and Indian War with just his vocal and guitar, and doing so with haunting calm. A cappella harmonizing crops up here and there, and it's some of the best around -- check out "Wake Up," with its at once inspiring and melancholic vibrancy -- while Eriksen's solo turn on "Three Babes" is hypnotic. Eriksen and Oss blend their voices together perfectly, while her solo turns on songs like "Knife" are especially fine; Irvine's frame drum on that particular number underscores her work even more. Risk, meanwhile, knows her instrument well, providing the right blend of delicacy and gentle rhythm when needed. If Cordelia's Dad isn't a total kick-up-your-heels outfit, they still know the value of a little dancing here and there, as the subtle build up of "Clyde Davenport Tunes" shows. Other straight instrumentals like "Abe's Retreat" are handled with equal aplomb, and the end result is a fascinating little album worth seeking out.

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