Put on your motley, don dusty tabards, cinch those codpieces up tight, and pack one of Mrs. Todd's tasty meat pies in your knapsack 'cause we're going on a journey a long ways back, and it won't be a very pleasant one. We're to learn what 'Goth' really means, and Sharron Kraus will be our herbalist witch-guide. Hast thee a heavy heart? Well, either cast it aside or become ever more familiar with the viscid thing, become, if you can, comfortable, if a trifle cautiously, as there will be lament and woe aplenty.
This is Kraus' fourth release, and she's picking up notice, including some rather flattering attention from one of the world's truly great music mags, The Wire. She encants in a lovely drear voice atop stripped-down instrumentation sharing kin with Popul Vuh, Third Ear Band, and other famed 70s ensembles specializing in updated folk strains cleaving closely to original intent. As with all such things, there's indeed beauty present, especially in the angelic harmony vocals in Evergreen Sisters and elsewhere. A fivesome accompanies Ms. Kraus, and they're dutifully. lucidly, and artistically restrained, human exercises in pastel and fog.
This is folk, but it's currently regarded as 'progressive' because, well, it's not Peter, Paul, & Mary, is it? Still, Kraus' wont is towards the minstrel, troubadour, and plainsong traditions, thus...progressive? Well, yes, because there are significant enough distinctions to warrant the appellation. Even de Machaut, one of the true masters of melancholy, did not write as Kraus does, and her work, though much less elaborate, shares a certain commonality with Penguin Caée Orchestra, as odd as that may sound. A listen to early PCO will clear things up, however.
There's a forlorn spirituality and mystical element or two running through The Woody Nightshade, perhaps best shown in Traveller between the Worlds, a cut not too far removed in transdimensional affinities from H.P. Lovecraft's cult classic White Ship, both in temperament and sentiment if not tone and atmosphere. Do not ask for whom the bell rings, 'cause it's probably a plague tocsin, and the inquiry will do you no good. Resign yourself to the Fates, sit quietly, and wait for whatever will transpire. While you're so disposed, put on *Nightshade*, and reflect that all is God's will…but that He just might be insane.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2010, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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