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Sharron Kraus & Christian Kiefer

THE BLACK DOVE  • The Black Dove

Written in a flurry of collaboration via email, The Black Dove posits itself as both the better angel and dark horse contender to the Fairport Convention throne. Pairing brainy academics from each side of the pond--Brit-folk warbler Sharron Kraus and Sacramento roots artist / writer Christian Kiefer--the self-titled outing tracks the misadventures and the blackest black heart of love gone bad.

The duo recorded The Black Dove in the course of a week in Kiefer's parent's Northern California basement a couple years ago and emerges for consumption like a cloak against the jagged isolated beauty of the seaside highway along that coast. The sound is steeped in gothic moor-wandering folk, bleak sun-bleached Americana and the broke-beat contemporary beauty of outfits like latter day Califone or Iron and Wine should Sam Beam fall into cahoots with a more bookish and Scottish incarnation of Catherine Irwin. All of which is to say that while The Black Dove (the album, and the band) is smart, literate, and more than a little highbrow, there's a connected soulfulness in its delivery that allows The Black Dove to avoid being pigeonholed as fare for myopic University-track NPR listeners. In fact, in the age of America's natural disasters and miner tragedies, The Black Dove strikes a chord closer to the bone.

Pump organ keys and banjo twist and twine, creating frigid tension. Around this tension, a world is built based on what's missing as much as what's present: the structure of the song cycle, most closely resembling a novel or even a play, benefits as much from the negative spaces as those places that are stained with deepest shades of ochre and prune. Getting lost in the drone of "The Blackest Crow" or the sparse palette and uneven gait of "The Chase" proves both an emotional and aesthetic venture worthy of investment.
• Paige La Grone Babcock

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sharronkraus.com     christiankiefer.com


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