Sunday, April 09, 2006

Sunday song

Sharron Kraus and Christian Kiefer

The Blackest Crow - Christian Kiefer and Sharron Kraus

Lamentation for an impending death and meditation on enduring love, "The Blackest Crow" is more commonly heard slow-picked on banjo and fiddle. On their new album The Black Dove (US, UK) California singer-songwriter Christian Kiefer and English songstress Sharron Kraus recontextualize the traditional folk ballad as an almost-hymn, with a pump organ that seems to wend its way through stone naves and transepts, past well-worn pews, reverberating off ancient walls to hover in grey vaulted ceilings closed to the sky. In keeping with the touching lyrics' 19th Century Appalachian origin (possibly written during the Civil War period), Kraus sings plainly, modestly, her appeal made with a stately grace and somber quietude.

Tim O'Brien performs a traditional bluegrass arrangement and Justin Rutledge's version is a more contemporary, meandering affair. Also, if you missed it a few weeks back, Linda Draper's "Seven Black Crows" makes the ideal companion piece.

The Blackest Crow - Tim O'Brien

The Blackest Crow - Justin Rutledge

An Inside Bluegrass article talks about the song's history and the difficulty of arranging it for guitar.


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