Camera Obscura Rec Sharron Kraus : Beautiful Twisted (UK/US,2002)***°
"Singer-songwriters operating in the field of compositions using traditional folk influences as their basis, occupy a remote and marginal space in the overall musical firmanent. Since the late 60's/70's creative boom, the standard was very much set bywriters and interpreters such as Richard Thompson, Sandy Denny, bands like Steeleye Span, Fairport Convention, Trees (much revered now but a commercial failure then) and a few others (UK perspective wise). There are a number of other examples in Europe and beyond, but that is stoy for elsewhere. Much that I have heard in this genre since (apart from undiscovered exceptions) has generally been uninspired, hackened retreads of ideas, subjects, musical colourations that show a singgular lack of inspiration and creative ability (see D.Daltrey and D.Youth). Not so Sharron Kraus on 'Beautiful Twisted' who gives us 11 self written songs that have a character of their own.
The opening song 'The Peacock's Wing' can be read as a metaphor for still prevailing attitudes in the sex war, telling us a tale of an unrealistic male obsession with a woman's beauty, a desire to own and preserve this object of fascination for only his eyes and admire and devour with a twisted ardour. (reminded me of a chilling film entitled "The butterfly Collector" or may be "this collector"). The unsettling sense of things not being as they first appear carries trough to a number of the other songs, namely "Twins" and "Death Jig". What makes many of these songs successful is that though their is reference to this past (age old concerns, -tradition, love, spirit, unfaithful hearts) the subjects are firmly rooted and relevant to the present. Lyrics e.g. from 'Godstow' : "not fit to be mother / and don't want to be a wife, they took me to a nunnery / at a place up-river from here" are rooted in a reality (rather than fantasy and over romantised evocations of this past) both pst and present that illustrates the emale predicament / struggle for identity. The warnings in "the wrong man" are modern yet ageless. The title track is one of my favourites texturally and musically.
Vocally Sharron is interesting thankfully without any cloying oversweetness, and conveys in an understated manner the content of the songs. She accompanies herself throughout the album on guitar, and 5 string banjo. Ably supported by Amy Clay on violin, Tracy Farbstein on fiddle and Ron Guensche on bass. It is a CD that rewards the attentive listener as repeated listens reveal the songs contents. I see from the credits an interest in works by names as Emily Dickinson, Wittgenstein, Borges, Angela Carter as well as more obvious names as Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits, Anne Briggs. Always a plus to find an artist in music, folk or otherwise with an interest in poetry, philosophy and literature (beats self obsession any day)." L. Woolfe
My own remarks :
Beautiful to hear one of those rare releases with that 70's UK styled magical folk lineage. Claiming to be under influence of Shirley Collins (here with a clear and straight voice), Martin Carthy and Anne Briggs (we can hear this very well in style), but also (this time not in style) Violent Femmes, Tom Waits, Nick Cave, Coil, and The Swans. The songs are very unpretentious. I like the often use of the banjo (giving it a poetic touch). The accompaniment makes it sound often better, like the second male voice on "The River's Daughter", the extra fiddle use (Amy Clay and Tracy Farbstein) on various songs. Having first completed a Doctorate in Philosophy at the Oxford University it is also clear that her choice/writing of songs/ is never another grip in the obvious. Hope that Sharron's talent will blossom further.
PS. After this release she toured with the Iditarod.