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Similarities abound for Cotter, Oliver the Crow

Club Passim, Cambridge, Mass., May 28, 2018

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

Other recent concert reviews
There were a lot of similarities between opening act Oliver the Crow and Caroline Cotter, even though on first glance, it would not have necessarily so. After all, Oliver the Crow is a duo comprised of fiddle and cello, not exactly the typical ensemble for a two-some. Cotter presented herself to be a bit of a folkie/singer songwriter with country inflections.

So, what made them such a mirror image? For starters, both were playing record release gigs. Oliver the Crow's debut drops in three weeks, while Cotter's disc came out in February.

And for some unknown reason - for both artists - each played their release in the exact order with Cotter acknowledging that she never does.

There's a lot to like about Oliver the Crow. Kaitlyn Raitz's cello filled a lot of sonic space, sometimes infusing the material with a mournful quality. But then again in tandem with Ben Plotnick and his fiddle, there were also a light of bright moments.

Raitz handled lead vocals with Plotnick often pitching in on backing harmonies. While most of the songs were originals, they turned in a good cover of the traditional "Bury Me Beneath the Willow."

The death theme also was apparent on the sad sounding "Grace," about a high school friend of Raitz, who died at the same time as her grandmother.

But Oliver the Crow was not a downer. Good sounds and songs have just the opposite effect.

Cotter's forte was her voice - pleasant and smooth, but also fully capable of delving into the inner emotion of the lyrics (the opening "Peace of Mind"). She was a confident performer - maybe spending a lot of time in the road over the years can have that effect.

This could have been a tough night for Cotter because this was the first time she played with the three musicians on stage with her after a few run throughs the previous day. No problem, though.

Cotter particularly benefited from guitarist Evan Haines. He was not an overpowering lead and didn't need to be. He scratched the surface of twang and country on a number of the songs, putting Cotter more in that realm than perhaps she otherwise would be.

Cotter left the band behind for her final song (there were no encores by either performer), a cover of "My Peace," written by Woody and Arlo Guthrie. Cotter said she started to sing the song after the election of President Trump. A pretty ending to Cotter's night.

Oh yeah, there was one other similarity between Oliver the Crow and Cotter. Both put in a real good night of music.