"Understated" is an understatement when talking about Tin Hat Trio. Listening to the ensemble is like looking through a keyhole into an roomful of dust-laden memories: Everything from the earthiness of blues and jazz to the austerity of Eastern European folk are spun into a swooning air of melancholy that would sound right at home in a Jean-Pierre Jeunet film. The group's mastery of unorthodox instruments like accordion, pump organ, viola and dobro has brought collaborators as varied as Mike Patton and Bill Frisell, not to mention Willie Nelson and Tom Waits. The threesome's new disc, Book of Silk, is highlighted by "Elliott Carter Family," a tribute to two of the band's inspirations: the Appalachian rusticity of the Carter Family and the radical chamber compositions of Elliott Carter. But where Carter was an exponent of choral music, the Trio is instrumental -- save for Silk's final track, "Empire of Light," where violinist Carla Kihlstedt lends her purr to a pensive lullaby of Edith Piaf proportions. As sleepy and subtle as it can get, though, there's no way you'll be dozing off to Tin Hat Trio's arresting, breath-stealing magnificence.
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