Folk Songs

Folk Songs

by Kronos Quartet and Trio Da KaliKronos Quartet and Trio Da Kali


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The Kronos Quartet have famously refused to allow themselves to be hemmed in by the narrower parameters of the traditional classical repertoire, devoting themselves to contemporary classical works, experimental pieces, and other compositions outside the usual confines of art music. Folk Songs clearly falls into the third category, and lives up to the title; it features nine selections drawn from the American, British, and French traditional songbooks, and finds the ensemble performing with vocalists Sam Amidon, Olivia Chaney, Rhiannon Giddens, and Natalie Merchant. With the exception of Giddens' sprightly take on "Lullaby," the tone of the vocal performances is somber, with these songs depicting tragic and unfortunate circumstances. Though Kronos' accompaniment is superb throughout, their arrangements are generally subtle and never upstage the singers. In fact, the quartet's attack imaginatively meshes with the tone and spirit of the vocalists, especially as violinists David Harrington and John Sherba mimic Olivia Chaney's harmonium on "Ramblin' Boy." While the strings don't aim for strictly Appalachian effects on these songs, most of these performances strike a satisfying balance between honoring the melodies of these numbers (the austere backing to Merchant's turn on "The Butcher's Boy") and bending them into new and intriguing shapes ("I See the Sign," where Amidon's guitar picks out the framework of the tune and the quartet spins around it, by turns sweet and chaotic). And the instrumental version of "Last Kind Words" is a memorable blend of percussive pizzicato lines and bluesy sway that suggests this album could have been nearly as strong without the work of the vocalists, fine as they are (especially Giddens and Merchant, both of whom rise to this challenge with flying colors). Folk Songs is a smart and emotionally effective exploration of the folk tradition that respects musical history without being chained to it, and it's an experiment the Kronos Quartet would do well to repeat in the future.

Product Details

Release Date: 06/09/2017
Label: Nonesuch
UPC: 0075597938739
catalogNumber: 559151
Rank: 176393

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Kronos Quartet and Trio Da Kali   Primary Artist,String Quartet
Natalie Merchant   Vocals
Sam Amidon   Guitar,Vocals
Rhiannon Giddens   Vocals
Olivia Chaney   Percussion,Harmonium,Vocals

Technical Credits

Hank Dutt   Cover Photo
David Harrington   Cover Photo,Additional Production
Robert Hurwitz   Executive Producer
Natalie Merchant   Cover Photo
Dan Petty   Engineer
Doug Petty   Producer
John Sherba   Cover Photo
Todd Whitelock   Engineer
Sunny Yang   Cover Photo
Geeshie Wiley   Composer
Jacob Garchik   Arranger
Sam Amidon   Cover Photo
Traditional   Composer
Tanya Rosen-Jones   Cover Photo
Nico Muhly   Arranger
Scott Fraser   Engineer
Donnacha Dennehy   Arranger
Rhiannon Giddens   Composer
Olivia Chaney   Cover Photo
Gabriel Witcher   Arranger

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