Nashville-based cello/fiddler duo Oliver the Crow are a union built for the airy plains of the South. Their vast sound, which has been called “inspired” by NPR, evokes the wide open spaces surrounding Music City, but grounds itself in the minimal, stripped down instrumentation of cellist KAITLYN RAITZ and fiddler BEN PLOTNICK.
Each of the ten original songs on their first full-length offering unlocks a different musical world. Oliver the Crow navigates effortlessly between the gravitas of chamber composition, the longing of folk music, and the near dreamlike quality of atmospheric sound art.
Kaitlyn and Ben’s chameleon-like ability to skip between genres stems from their roots as classically-trained performers (Kaitlyn has a masters degree in classical cello from McGill University and Ben has performed as a soloist with the Calgary Philharmonic) but also from their love of everything from Hank Williams to Prince. Raitz was a founding member of folk duo Bride & Groom, tours with The Bombadils and has performed everywhere from Carnegie Hall to the Station Inn. Ben is a primary member of the JUNO award-winning folk string quartet, The Fretless, and has contributed to hundreds of recordings as one of North America’s elite fiddle players.
Their self-titled debut album was crafted in a solar-powered cabin in the middle of nowhere Vermont, over the course of just three and a half days. Kaitlyn and Ben played by natural sunlight during the day, and candlelight in the chilly evenings. They checked on the power level in between takes, made their meals next to the mixing board, and slept near their gear and instruments.
Experimental electronic duo SPEAKER FACE, known for combining acoustic instruments and natural sounds with synthesizers to create wild sonic landscapes, produced the record. Speaker Face loved the challenge of evoking drums and guitar while staying faithful to the duo’s instrumentation. “The only sounds on this record are of cello, fiddle, and voice, even though it’s hard to believe at times. We triple checked, in fact. It’s legit.”
The result is exquisite. One could get lost listening to the sounds in the shadows of “Bury Me Beneath The Willow Tree”, or following Raitz’ liquid mirror vocals as they echo and bounce off into the distance. But then the hook hits hard, a cello groove demands your immediate attention, and your focus is brought back to the present. The opening track “Sailing with the Tide” is sonically huge, anthemic, and seems to span space and time. “Glass” has Raitz’ vocals sounding silver and haunting, while “Sam River,” the only instrumental track on the record, shows off Oliver the Crow’s chops as brilliant composers and sonic manipulators.
One thing is certain: Oliver the Crow cannot be defined by genre, and yet is timeless, indelible. Kaitlyn and Ben have mastered the art of anchoring a folk song in epic pop sensibility, and it’s exhilarating to hear them smash all the rules.