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Album Review

You know you've got a strange sort of magic going on when a scratchy vocal by Tom Waits (on the reprise of the hypnotic, chamber music meets French cafe and spaghetti western title track) is the least bizarre element. The trio of Rob Burger (accordion, piano, pump organ, marxophone, harmonica), Carla Kihlstedt (violin, viola), and Mark Orton (guitar, Dobro, banjo) offer a vision of what a chamber music group might sound like if they mixed a studio session for a Western film with a rhythmically diverse, often atonal classical excursion. The opening track "A Life in East Poultney" finds a banjo plucking over a droning violin as bells ring in the background. That same violin does a seductive dance over a plucky organ base and accordion harmonies on the title track, which evolves into the image of a train blowing harmonica steam across the land. "Scrap" rolls like a schizophrenic fiddle tune, and then the fiddling slows down into a mosey on the wacky and atonal "Sand Dog Blues." And by that point, when the craziness is just beginning, you're either tripping and enjoying or wondering who these three are and just why they think this is commercial music. The New Yorker put it best when it said their music is "a soundtrack for the kind of puzzling dream which leaves you sitting awake in the middle of the night." You will love it or loathe it, but you can't just shrug and ignore it.


Formed: 1997

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Transplanted from New York to the Bay Area, the chamber jazz group Tin Hat Trio consists of accordionist Rob Burger, guitarist Mark Orton, and violinist Carla Kihlstedt. The group's unique blend of structure, improvisation, and contemporary classical, folk, world, and jazz elements reflects each member's other performing experiences. Kihlstedt majored in classical violin performance at the Oberlin Conservatory and went on to become a prominent performer in both classical and improvised music, playing...
Full Bio
Helium, Tin Hat Trio
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  • $14.99
  • Genres: Jazz, Music, Singer/Songwriter, Rock, Alternative
  • Released: Apr 10, 2000

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