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Tin Hat Trio: Helium

Glenn Astarita By

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Following up their critically acclaimed Memory Is An Elephant the “Tin Hat Trio” extend their unique blend of grassroots Americana and Chamberesque interaction with jazz-based rhythms and acute improvisational prowess on Helium. The musicians combine folksy themes with fervent jazz chords supplied by guitarist Mark Orton on the title track, “Helium” as applied rhythms coalesce with Rob Burger’s cheery lead accordion lines and violinist Carla Kihlstedt's sonorous phrasing. Throughout, the musicians go genre hopping yet the overall sound and presentation is clearly their own. Simple, understated elegance along with a noticeable degree of playfulness continues on “Sand Dog Blues” as Orton’s bluesy yet impacting work on the dobro in conjunction with sprightly themes and quietly exhilarating unison choruses emit an air of innocence. The piece titled, “Width Of The World” boasts chamber-like qualities intermingled with a distinct if not cunning approach to jazz-blues improvisation brimming with delightful lyricism and graceful soloing along with a splash of grit and determination. With, “Esperanta”, the musicians pursue delightful melodies that almost seem childlike as Ms. Kihlstedt’s engaging violin lines offer a counter-current to the upbeat vibe as she shrewdly injects sounds and phrasing that could indicate sorrow or repentance. The omnipresent imagery prevails on the final piece, “Helium (Reprise)” featuring guest artist Tom Waits as the musicians create thought provoking sounds and otherworldly musical gestures in support of Waits’ infamous gruff and ragged vocalizations.

We tend to overuse words or adjectives such as – refreshing, stimulating and/or modernistic yet Helium represents a rather novel approach to disparate forms of music which to many might seem commonplace or part of our daily lives. The “Tin Hat Trio” is a band who combine subtle dissimilarities of musical art forms into a unique stylization comprised of character and enthusiasm while the musicians also provide hearty entertainment along the way. * * * *


Track Listing: A Life In East Poultney; Helium; Beverly's March, Scrap; Sand Dog Blues; Fountain Of Youth; Slip; Width Of The World; Seamstress Extraordinaire; Esperanto; Big Blue House; Old Grey Mare; Brennero; Anna Kournikova; Helium Reprise

Personnel: Rob Burger (accordion, piano, pump organ, marxophone, harmonica) Carla Kihlstedt (violin, viola); Mark Orton (guitar, dobra, banjo) and on Helium Reprise; Tom Waits (vocals)

Title: Helium | Year Released: 2000 | Record Label: Angel Records Canada

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