Each of the compositions on “The Black Dove” are very pensive and stark in the overwhelming silence that they are couched in. There is no need for vocals in tracks like “Missing”, but Sharron’s vocals calling on masters like Allison Krauss and Stevie Nicks make the country and bluegrass stylings present into something that is compelling and catchy as all get out. In a sense, Kraus’ vocals even take on the tenor of Catherine O’Hara’s from “A Mighty Wind”.
The beauty of “Black Dove” is that a number of styles are shown through the disc’s fifteen cuts; regardless of these different styles, what one encounters with the disc is a highly cohesive sound that permeates all sections of the album. I am not sure whether the backing instrumentation is just more impressive during the Kraus tracks or what, but it seems as if those tracks that are dominated completely by Kraus are those that succeed in a much clearer way than those sang by Kiefer. It is not as if Kiefer singing is sub-par in any way (actually, the vocals are as solid as the rock of Gibraltar) but the style of Kraus immediately grabs onto listeners’ hearts and does not let go. Indeed, it might be a mixture of these factors (interesting backdrops and a more salient set of vocals) that drives this opinion, as the ghastly backing chorus during “On The Chase” attest. “The Blackest Crow” is a much more simplistic sounding track than the others dominated by Kraus’ vocals. It is due to this collapsing of complexity that this track is much more affecting than others; the droning synthesizer and other instruments on this track create swells that threaten to crash down on listeners like a tidal wave.
Where many of the Kiefer tracks on the disc were decent but not anything to write home about, this trend changes with “Dearest”. Singing in a style that pulls equally from the last forty years of popular music, the soulful singing of “they all have mouths like yours” will undoubtedly melt a few hearts in the process. The instrumental tracks during “The Black Dove” really bookend a number of the more impressive vocal tracks and give listeners a chance to unwind from some of these ground-shaking sounds. Here’s to hoping that Kiefer and Kraus have a few more joint albums together in the next few years, and that they have the same quality of “Black Dove”.
Top Tracks: Missing, The Blackest Crow
Christian Kiefer and Sharron Kraus – Black Dove / 2006 Tompkins Square / 15 Tracks / http://www.christiankiefer.com/theblackdove.htm / Reviewed 15 March 2006