When the buzz cycle moves so quickly that it seems to take multiple Twitter streams and searches to keep track of the day's best new bands, describing a piece of music as "mature" feels more like scorn than praise. Who's got time to appreciate hard-earned, time-shaped wisdom, after all, when there are so many mp3s through which to wade? And what is craftsmanship when some dude in Topeka's just landed half a keyboard hook and a little bit of wit in his bedroom, and it's already streaming on Bandcamp? That's not to criticize the music that's being made so much as the way we've come to treat it-- anonymous bits of data that can be downloaded, scanned, and discarded before the song's actually over. It's all first impressions and quick fixes.
Welsh folkie Sharron Kraus betrays some heavy Espers influence on The Woody Nightshade, her latest full-length—or maybe Espers has been showing her influence. Who knows? Kraus played alongside Helen Espvall and Espers’ Meg Baird on Leaves from Off of the Tree, a 2006 collection of traditional songs, and she opens this record with a pair of tunes that could be outtakes from Espers’ excellent II. “Nothing” features atmospheric background accents underneath Kraus’ mournful keening-in-harmony, while “Two Brothers” spins a plaintive, contorted tale of complicated love, accompanied by urgent but understated electric guitar.
Sharron Kraus' fourth stand-alone album, and her first for the Strange Attractors Audio House label, finds the singer/instrumentalist creating another series of rich songs which take their inspiration from older folk forms. In its own way, though, The Woody Nightshade is perhaps her most "in the now" recordings; if the delicate web of arrangements on songs like "Nothing" and "Story" suggests weird, unsettled landscapes and mystic impulses from a rural past, it just as carefully suggests modern elaborations on those feelings. Kraus and her various collaborators throughout -- notably Christophe Albertijn, who both performed and recorded the overall effort -- are a bit more plugged in overall, but if the feeling of the the album is misty folk-rock at many points, it's the folk that still predominates throughout.