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Black Prairie

A Tear in the Eye is a Wound in the Heart – 2012 (Sugar Hill)

Reviewed by Kevin Oliver

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CDs by Black Prairie

While some might describe Black Prairie as the roots music or bluegrass side project of The Decemberists' Chris Funk, Nate Query and Jenny Conlee, the music the group creates on this, their second album, is more of a film noir version of Americana music, wrapping traditional instruments with a gauzy, translucent covering that's more Mazzy Star than Gillian Welch. Credit vocalist Annalisa Tornfelt with setting much of that mood, as her smoky, distant pipes color tunes such as Little Songbird with a regretful, wistful air.

They're certainly familiar and comfortable with playing it fairly straight, as on the gospel-tinged Rock of Ages, which while it isn't the classic hymn still evokes some of the same old-time spiritual response. The instrumentals such as For the Love of John Hartford and Dirty River Stomp are more adventurous, not unlike the recent Punch Brothers work or The Duhks, two other groups who have made a similar jumble of bluegrass, roots music, and more.

As in their more rock 'n' roll work in The Decemberists, however, the members of Black Prairie seem less concerned with authenticity than they do with expressing themselves articulately through whatever music happens to be coming out of them. The end result is a collection of lovingly rendered, sublimely delivered tunes.