Tin Hat Trio's classical-folk fusion
by Seth Rogovoy
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(GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass., August 19, 2004) -- The conservatory-trained musicians of Tin Hat Trio recently released their fourth CD, “Book of Silk” (Ropeadope), another glistening collection of original, acoustic chamber music, connecting Old World modalities to New World folk touches. Melodies range from the lilting, lyrical waltz, “Longest Night,” to the playful, jaunty “Clandestine Adventures of Ms. Merz.” The music is at times so gossamery and delicate it could well be the sound of instruments NOT being played but just breathing, or perhaps what the instruments themselves might sound like if they woke up in the middle of the night for an impromptu, early-morning jam session. The group’s most fully realized album to date, a work of unassuming, timeless beauty, “Book of Silk” breaks new ground in fusing the architectural proportions of classical music with the sonorities of folk and the phrasing of jazz. The group, including accordionist Rob Burger, violinist Carla Kihlstedt, and guitarist Mark Orton, brings its hypnotic, dreamy, noirish folk-jazz to Club Helsinki (413-528-3394) in Great Barrington tonight at 8:30.
Kate Campbell reinvents her past
No matter how hard we try, most of us rarely get the opportunity to go back in time and redo something in our past that we know we can do better having gained more knowledge and experience under our belt. But singer-songwriter Kate Campbell decided that given her art form, she could do exactly that, and earlier this month she released two completely new recordings showcasing songs that originally appeared on albums she made back in the 1990s. Both released on the Compadre label, “Sing Me Out” features all-acoustic arrangements and “The Portable Kate Campbell” takes advantage of more contemporary, folk-rock instrumentation.
Both recordings were produced by Will Kimbrough, who was at Club Helsinki just a few weeks ago accompanying Rodney Crowell. In addition to Kimbrough and Crowell, the new recordings feature contributions from Kim Richey, Jonell Mosser, Pat Buchanan, and Nanci Griffith, who Campbell resembles in her songwriting skill and country-inflected vocals. A true bard of the South and the daughter of a Baptist preacher, Campbell, who has toured with Guy Clark and Emmylou Harris, performs on Friday night at the Guthrie Center (413-528-1955) in Great Barrington at 8.
Janis Ian: Norah Jones’s prototype?
Long before there was a jazzy singer-songwriter with country music leanings named Norah Jones, Janis Ian was exploring the affinities among the two musics. On Ian’s latest album, “Billie’s Bones” (Oh Boy), the two blend effortlessly, in the use of the dobro and pedal steel, in the crisp instrumentals, in the solid songcraft, and in songs like “My Tennessee Hills,” on which Ian does Norah Jones better than Norah Jones herself, with some help from Dolly Parton on harmonies (curiously, Parton also harmonized with Jones on her latest album). Like Jones, Ian, who has called Nashville home for over a decade, was nominated for five Grammy Awards in one year – but unlike Jones, Ian walked away with only two trophies in 1976 instead of Jones’s five in 2003.
On “Billie’s Bones,” Ian hasn’t left behind her own jazzy sensibility -- her songs are still laden with sophisticated chord changes and deft guitar playing -- or her worldly outlook – the album’s songs include “Paris In Your Eyes,” “Marching on Glasgow” and “Amsterdam.” Best known for her two massive hits, “Society’s Child” and “At 17,” both of which aptly encapsulated the tenor of their times, Ian entertained a sold-out crowd at Club Helsinki in March 2003, a feat she threatens to pull off again when she returns to the club (413-528-3394) on Friday at 8:30.
[This column originally appeared in the Berkshire Eagle on August 19, 2004. Copyright Seth Rogovoy 2004. All rights reserved.]