12 Songs, 42 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

Chicago's Dolly Varden—a quintet built around husband and wife Steve Dawson and Diane Christiansen—are among the few alt-country groups that prove how wrong it is that music this sweet and pure should has to have an "alt" in front of it. Sublime harmonies, traditional country instrumentation, and songwriting that never gets cute should be the standard for mainstream country, not an alternative. Songs like "Mayfly" (where for nearly seven minutes love is praised in all tenses), "Done (Done)" (where the rhythm section breaks out with harmonies to create a perfect roll-down-the-car-window song), and "Favorite Friend" (where a dark piano creates an end-of-the-night ballad worthy of Neil Young) are among the best examples of how music made within tradition can still defy limits when played with inspiration. Considering this group has been circulating for just about 20 years, it's a testament to its high standards that it has a smaller catalog than most bands of its vintage. Dolly Varden waits until it's sure it has something worth saying. 

EDITORS’ NOTES

Chicago's Dolly Varden—a quintet built around husband and wife Steve Dawson and Diane Christiansen—are among the few alt-country groups that prove how wrong it is that music this sweet and pure should has to have an "alt" in front of it. Sublime harmonies, traditional country instrumentation, and songwriting that never gets cute should be the standard for mainstream country, not an alternative. Songs like "Mayfly" (where for nearly seven minutes love is praised in all tenses), "Done (Done)" (where the rhythm section breaks out with harmonies to create a perfect roll-down-the-car-window song), and "Favorite Friend" (where a dark piano creates an end-of-the-night ballad worthy of Neil Young) are among the best examples of how music made within tradition can still defy limits when played with inspiration. Considering this group has been circulating for just about 20 years, it's a testament to its high standards that it has a smaller catalog than most bands of its vintage. Dolly Varden waits until it's sure it has something worth saying. 

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About Dolly Varden

The Chicago group Dolly Varden produces rootsy, atmospheric tunes laced with rock, country, and soul influences. The husband and wife songwriting team of Diane Christiansen and Stephen Dawson first came to prominence in cow-punkers Stump the Host. The two founded Dolly Varden in 1995, recording their debut album, Mouthful of Lies, in Christiansen's converted art studio and releasing it on their own Mid-Fi label. After building up an avid following in Chicago and the Midwest, the group signed with New York indie label Evil Teen for 1998's sophomore effort, The Thrill of Gravity. The album, recorded once again in the home studio, earned rave reviews and garnered national attention.

Dolly Varden's third album, 2000's The Dumbest Magnets (Evil Teen Records), was produced by Brad Jones (Steve Forbert, Marshall Crenshaw) at his live-in studio in Nashville. (The Dumbest Magnets was distributed in Europe on Flying Sparks Records.) For Forgiven Now, released in March of 2002, the group once again recorded with Brad Jones. The effort featured a guest appearance by legendary pedal steel player Al Perkins (Gram Parsons, the Rolling Stones) on "The Lotus Hour" and "There's a Magic." Forgiven Now was released through a partnership with Undertow, an independent music collective run by Dolly Varden's longtime manager, Bob Andrews. Dolly Varden's well-crafted albums have garnered enthusiastic accolades from such vanguard publications of alt-country as the Austin Chronicle and No Depression. ~ Erik Hage

Songs

Albums