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A classical take on folk that delivers charm


Folk Songs performed by the Kronos Quartet with Rhiannon Giddens, Natalie Merchant, Olivia Chaney and Sam Amidon (Nonesuch)

What's not to love here? It's diving fully into great folk music which has, frankly, been one of the more irresistible things classical musicians have always done.

Never mind Bartok, Vaughan Williams and Kodaly, decades ago the great Italian post-modern experimentalist Luciano Berio composed a voice and orchestra piece called "Folk Songs" to allow his avant-garde virtuoso singing wife Cathy Berberian to sing the likes of "Black Was the Color of My True Love's Hair." (You'll never hear a more beautiful version.)

Kronos Quartet is from left Sunny Yang, Hank Dutt, David Harrington and John Sherba. (Photo by Jay Blakesberg)

The idea of the Kronos Quartet teaming up with brilliant classical composers to arrange for them (Nico Muhly, for instance) and pop and folk singers comes off as wonderfully as you might expect, if not more so. The great Rhiannon Giddens sings "Factory Girl" and a lullaby, Natalie Merchant sings "The Butcher Boy" and "Johnny Has Gone for a Soldier" and Olivia Chaney performs "Ramblin' Boy" and the original French version of "Mountain, How High You Are." Sam Amidon is the only male singer on the disc singing "I See the Sign" and "Oh Where." The charm of this is absolute.

4 stars (out of four)

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