The Court and Spark was originally lumped in with the alt-country movement largely because of the San Franciscans' choice of instrumentation: Pedal-steel and acoustic guitars played prominent roles on the combo's 1999 debut, Ventura Whites, with banjos, dobros and mandolins making cameo appearances. Several albums and years later, most of these colors remain in the band's paintbox, but it's abundantly evident by now that the group is more interested in creating moods with sound than in following the standard guidelines of the Americana genre. Although Hearts, the combo's latest release on the Absolutely Kosher imprint, may move at a laconic tempo (lead vocalist M.C. Taylor is a mighty deliberate fellow), the shifting textures and aural juxtapositions on display throughout the likes of "Let's Get High" and "The Oyster Is a Wealthy Beast" create an environment so lush and luxuriant that to rush past it would be a crime. At their best, the Courtiers, who share this bill with Killfix, offer a refreshingly heady twist on twang.
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