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Viktor Krauss: II (2007)

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Viktor Krauss: II How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Thanks to his dexterity and vision on multiple stringed instruments, Krauss is kind of a musical everyman who has recorded and performed with Bill Frisell and Lyle Lovett (both of whom appear on II) plus Chet Atkins, Emmylou Harris, Elvis Costello and The Chieftains. His solo debut, Far From Enough (Nonesuch, 2004), made it up to #6 on the Contemporary Jazz charts and featured contributions from guitarist Frisell and Allison Kraus (Viktor's sister) on viola and vocals.

Armed with various electric and acoustic guitars, keyboards and basses, Krauss bunkered down in his home studio in Nashville with session aces Dean Parks (electric and acoustic guitars) and Matt Chamberlain (drums, percussion, programming) to record II, and finished this project at studios in Los Angeles. These two geographic points of reference place this sophomore effort nicely in context. It is extremely well-played, with subtle hints of country, jazz and blues, especially when Frisell and Lovett share the spotlight. Frisell's guitar and especially Lovett's lead vocal inhabit like ghosts the floating blues "(I Could Have Been Your) Best Friend. Lovett's vocal burns slow yet deep, intense from being so quietly rendered, relishing his emotional pain and feeding it back into his heart to fuel its anger. "Lyle can do the nasty delivery really well, deadpans Krauss.

The instrumental "Pinky Ring launches in a different direction. Krauss polishes blues guitar licks into an edgy space-age sheen then floats them skyward until they seem to scrape against the atmosphere; this combined blues/psychedelic guitar sound seems to honor the trademark sound of David Gilmour, Pink Floyd's guitarist. Krauss' instrumental rearrangement of Floyd's "Shine on You Crazy Diamond, especially transposing its celestial coda into its introduction, works much more effectively than does Shawn Colvin's attendant, thin vocal.

Most of II, although pleasant enough to hear, sort of just floats by without effect or impact, like it's waiting for something else to happen ("Last Book and "Eyes in the Heat, featuring classical Indian vocalist Shweta Jhaveri, were in fact originally composed as film scores, and sound like it). It sounds great, but doesn't always deliver a rewarding listen.


Track Listing: Hop; No Time Like the Past; Eyes in the Heat; When Shes Dancing; Pinky Ring; (I Could Have Been Your) Best Friend; Ecotone; Shine On You Crazy Diamond; Dudeman; Last Book.

Personnel: Viktor Krauss: bass, keyboards, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, vocals; Dean Parks: electric guitar, acoustic guitar, cimbus; Matt Chamberlain: drums, percussion, electronics; Shawn Colvin: vocals; Bill Frisell: electric guitar; Shweta Jhaveri: vocals; Lyle Lovett: vocals; Ben Taylor: vocals.

Record Label: EMI Music

Style: Fringes of Jazz


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