The Tin Hat Trio has made itself a supergroup of sorts, with Willie Nelson and Tom Waits guesting on its recordings and with a variety of individual projects outside the band. Carla Kihlstedt and Rob Burger have both released discs on John Zorn's Tzadik label, Kihlstedt is also a member of the avant rock outfit Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, and Mark Orton has toured with Bill Frisell, the Lounge Lizards and Mr. Bungle. The trio has established a reputation as a chamber Americana group with its penchant for banjo, dobro and harmonica, but on its new recording, the trio has come into its own.
Book of Silk has a purer, less referential feel than the group's three previous releases. The pieces are still slow and evocative, but many tracks carry a more introspective feel. The group is rounded out by guests Zeena Parkins on harp and Bryan Smith on tuba, giving it a fuller sound, but without the presence of celebrity singers (the one vocal track is handled by Kihlstedt), the musicians get to be themselves without the distraction of recognition. When they do reference signposts of the Americas (Elliot Carter, Buena Vista Social Club's Compay Segundo), it isn't in an attempt to emulate. In fact, if anything the chapters of Book of Silk sound not so much like any American musician as they do the Italian composer (and Fellini scorer) Nino Rota. A dustbowl aesthetic still shows through, but for the most part the fifteen tracks emote their own simple joys and sadness.
1 The Longest Night
2 The Clandestine Adventures Of Ms. Merz
4 Invisible Mobile
5 March Of The Smallest Feet
6 Hotel Aurora
7 Osborne Avenue
8 Elliott Carter Family
9 Things That Might Have Been
10 Red Hook Stoop
11 Same Shirt, Different Day
12 Pablo Looks Back
13 Light Black From Pole To Pole
14 Lauren's Lullaby
Rob Burger - accordion, piano, prepared & toy pianos, bass & diatonic harmonicas, marxophone on
"Same Shirt, Different Day"; Carla Kihlstedt - violin, trumpet & e-string violins, viola, voice, marxophone
on "Pablo Looks Back"; Mark Orton - guitar, dobro, banjo. with: Zeena Parkins - harp; Bryan Smith -
tuba, euphonium; and additional musicians: Matthias Bossi - percussion on "Company"; Amanda
Lawrence - viola on "The Clandestine Adventures of Ms. Merz" & "Empire of Light"; Jill McClelland-
Coykendall - clarinets on "Empire of Light"; Lori Presthus - cello on "Empire of Light".