The second album from oxford’s fabulous sharron kraus is a wonderful follow-up to the haunting debut ‘beautiful twisted’. recorded with jeffrey alexander (iditarod / black forest / black sea) this moves from traditional folk (in a shirley collins, anne briggs style) to her own songs and enchants all the way. an immaculate album from a major new singer.
Sharron Kraus’ sophomore effort Songs of Love and Loss follows and diverges from the path she carved out on Beautiful Twisted. Echoes of Shirley & Dolly Collins flit about, but there is no derivative strain in the proceedings. Kraus’ more plaintive voice is the perfect balance for her songs, which are laden with the kind of gloomy spirit that drives people to dwell on love’s passing and absence rather than its gifts — or perhaps, as evidenced by Kraus’ tomes here, this wondrously dark creativity is its gift in an offhanded way. The album was recorded in Oxford with her band that includes Colin Fletcher on bass, Jon Fletcher on banjo and guitar, and cellist and fiddle player Jane Griffiths as welll as a number of stalwart guests including Jeffrey Alexander and Jon Boden. Kraus is both heartbreakingly sweet and sad and deliciously grim, such as on the harrowing “Song of the Hanged Man,” where tropes and stereotypes explode without flinching and move into a quiet but tense and cacophonous melody adorned with squeezebox, banjo, and shimmering, clanging steel noises that is delightfully unsettling. This is countered with the lonesome love ballad of abandonment and grief done to a perversely sprightly tempo and bright melody. “Impasse” is a testament to determination no matter the cost and its spare, minor-key manner calculates that cost as very high indeed. The album’s opener, “Gallows Song,” is a traditional Appalachian ballad that Kraus weds to her own response, “Gallows Hill,” keeping its integrity while extrapolating its spirit and putting it into a new context. Songs of Love and Loss is another winner; it may not be as startling as its predecessor since listeners have a frame of reference, but in its textures, dynamics, and sheer minstrelsy, it is even stronger.
All Music Guide
Originally released on CD on Camera Obscura Records.
All songs written by Sharron Kraus, except ‘Gallows Song’, trad. arr. Sharron Kraus.
Sharron Kraus: vocals, guitar, banjo, clarinet, whistles, piano, hurdy gurdy, omnichord and percussion.
Jane Griffiths: fiddle on 2, 9, 13 and viola on 5.
Colin Fletcher: upright bass and acoustic bass.
Jon Fletcher: harmonica; guitar on 9, 11, 13; banjo on 1 and vocals
Cameron Grote: drums on 11.
Jeffrey Alexander: electric guitar on 10, 11.
Jon Boden: fiddle on 3, 6, 8.
Giles Lewin: violin on 7.
William Schaff: drums on 1, 2, 5, 13.
Alec K. Redfearn: accordion on 9.
Recorded by Rich Haines, Jon Fletcher, Miriam Goldberg and Sharron Kraus.
Mixed by Jeffrey Alexander and Sharron Kraus.
Cover art by William Schaff.
M.J. Fine, Philadelphia Citipaper: Best Local CDs of 2004
Recorded in her native Oxford, the second album from Fishtown transplant Sharron Kraus is a dark-folk gem. Listening to her high, clear voice cut through melodies woven from acoustic guitar, banjo and hurdy-gurdy, you may struggle to remember which late-’60s traditionalists beat her to the material. But with one small exception, these murder ballads and forest laments all come from Kraus’ pen. Here’s one folklore expert whose originals feel both authentic and alive.
Thom Jurek, All Music Guide
* * * *
… Songs of Love and Loss is another winner; it may not be as startling as its predecessor since listeners have a frame of reference, but in its textures, dynamics, and sheer minstrelsy, it is even stronger.
Byron Coley & Thurston Moore, Arthur Magazine
Exquisite second album by this wonderful singer. She conjures up visions of Karen Dalton, Shirley Collins, Judy Dyble and even early Joni. Live she was fantastic too.
The second album from Oxford’s fabulous Sharron Kraus is a wonderful follow-up to the haunting debut ‘Beautiful Twisted’. … this moves from traditional folk (in a Shirley Collins, Anne Briggs style) to her own songs and enchants all the way. An immaculate album from a major new singer.
The Big Takeover
With a voice like a younger Joan Baez, Sharron Kraus’ second album begins with a hop and a skip up a “Gallow’s Hill” and perhaps a murder between lovers. … a delicate record that grows in depth with each listen. Play at night by yourself at your own risk.
Simon Lewis, Ptolemaic Terrascope
Like the dusty book of fairy tales that so enchanted me as a child this album has the power to transport you to a different realm. Full of haunting tales each song displays passion and maturity throughout, the music and lyrics creating an absorbing and enchanting whole where not a moment is wasted.
Chuck Rosenberg, Aural Innovations
… what Sharron and her many guests do is as dark and mysterious as anything. …it’s life-and-death-affirming music and a great album.
Steve Rybicki, Fake Jazz
Rating: 11 / 12
On Songs of Love and Loss, Sharron Kraus accentuates the strong literary sensibility in the tradition of English “dark folk” (the trunk of the tree on which Appalachian murder ballads are the leaves) with stunning results. Kraus continues the work of a historical continuum that began centuries ago and has seen traditional champions in Shirley Collins, the Waterson and Carthy families, and more recently in the work of Alasdair Roberts, Nick Cave, and David Tibet. … With Songs of Love and Loss, Sharron Kraus has offered a revival in the best sense of the word. It is not just a rehashing of old ideas, rather a new creation built on founding principles. At base, it is timeless music expressing universal joy and sorrow with vivid imagery and sensitive accompaniment. Far more than its deceptively modest title suggests.
Jeff Penczak, Fake Jazz
Rating: 10 / 12
Kraus’ gorgeously crystalline voice [is] perhaps one of the clearest, sweetest, and most lilting instruments in the current female folk canon.
Gerald Van Waes, Psyche Van Het Folk
Sharron Kraus shows here the dark side of old folk music. [Her voice] reaches a kind of emotional depth which is only rarely heard. The varied acoustic (string instrument and acoustic guitars or banjo) accompaniment makes the listening pleasure complete, an enthralling experience. This is very rich music showing different aspects of feelings and expressions with each listen. Now I consider it already as a classic. Highly recommended!
Sue Foreman, Nightshift Magazine
Forget hardcore doom metal, folk music has always had the closest relationship with death, its causes and effects. … Sharron Kraus has always hovered around the bleaker side of folk and this latest full-length album sets its stall out from the start. ‘Gallows Song / Gallows Hill’ finds blood-fed trees flourishing on the hill where the protagonist finds her lover swinging from a rope, eyes popping from his skull, a haunting, banjo-led melody gently circling overhead like so many ravens. … Stylistically, Sharron sinks her roots into classic folk traditions, although there is a rich seam of Appellation (sic) folk running through many of the songs. For the most part she captures your imagination and comforts the listener in her rustic storytelling.
Michael Toland, High Bias
Dense, fraught with emotional tension and little release, folksinger Sharron Kraus’ second album updates the past couple of centuries of acoustic music for a contemporary audience, without resorting to modern gimmickry. …Reporting from the field in a beautifully modulated soprano, Kraus walks us through a world of pre-dawn darkness, with an assurance that the sun will come up any minute. Brilliant.
Jason MacNeil, Pop Matters
Sharron Kraus goes about her musical business in a very unique way … giving each song a folksy nature with a grace that matches contemporaries like Kate Rusby and Cara Dillon. … a haunting performance.
Toledo City Paper
These are challenging songs, with a dark beauty.
Carolee, Gothic Beauty
Rating: * * * *
Incurable pessimists and disappointed romantics will be glad that there are artists like Sharron Kraus to reinvent folk music for our kind … Kraus’ sorrowfully open-hearted love songs, twisted fables and ballads of the doomed put a new spin on folk, keeping its storytelling quality and turning its perspectives inside-out with honesty and a quirk of irony.
M.J. Fine, South Jersey Courier Post
Sharron Kraus has a wicked way with murder ballads. Songs of Love and Loss sounds like it must have been recorded during England’s late-’60s, early ’70s folk boom. Right place, wrong time. …Among the instruments Kraus plays are banjo, clarinet, guitar, hurdy gurdy and piano, but her diamond-hard voice and lyrics cut deepest.
Dick Tersteeg, Mania
Songs of Love and Loss is definitely worthy of this beautiful name. Kraus is blessed with a wonderful, melancholic sounding voice. Her vocals give a feel of sadness and melancholy to every song. … An even greater merit of this album is that Sharron Kraus renews traditional folk in a subtle manner, giving it a place in modern times.
(Translation by Linda de Boer.)
Lauren Kent, Jupiter Index
Sharron Kraus’s new album, “Songs of Love and Loss” can best be described as gothic folk with British flavor. … Kraus has not only successfully resurrected artful folk music from the ’60s and ’70s, but has added her own dark nuances to the mix. If one has been waiting for authentic folk, her music departs to a new place and takes the listener on that journey.