By: Dennis Cook
Since their formation in the early '90s, Ida has shown what you can do with a few well chosen elements. Hushed, clip-clip percussion, reverberating piano, fingerpicked acoustic guitar and, above all, gorgeous voices intertangle beautifully. Nothing that doesn't belong makes into their arrangements, and My Fair, My Dark EP (released August 5 on Polyvinyl) is a primo example of Ida's gift for spareness that always feels nicely full.
Seven tracks split between previously unreleased originals and record dweeb pleasing covers, this EP showcases their twang-touched rock hum in a focused, pleasing way. As usual, Elizabeth Mitchell's voice will stop you in your tracks, and the relaxed, pull-up-a-chair vibe makes it feel like she's serenading you and you alone. Hubby Daniel Littleton's warm croon is equally welcome, and his guitar playing has rarely been more appealing. They're joined by Levon Helm on a measured, potent live version of their original "Late Blues" captured at one of Helm's Midnight Rambles. Underground folk hero Michael Hurley also drops in, and, in this case, you can rightly judge a band by the company they keep. They claim Dolly Parton's "The Pain of Loving You" and John & Beverly Martyn's "Road To Ruin" as their own, possessing them like some new ghost in their spare yet powerful interpretations. Toss in English folk grandame Anne Brigg's wistful "Time Has Come" and two excellent originals and you've got a compact introduction to a band way more folks should be hip to.
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