The Rodeo Eroded

Following two critically lauded albums for Angel/EMI, the Tin Hat Trio shifts to the Atlantic-distributed Ropedope imprint for the venturesome instrumental group's most engaging, impressive album yet.

Following two critically lauded albums for Angel/EMI, the Tin Hat Trio shifts to the Atlantic-distributed Ropedope imprint for the venturesome instrumental group's most engaging, impressive album yet. As intimated in the title, the Americana strains of The Rodeo Eroded have been filtered and refracted with ironic affection, not to mention virtuosic invention. Following the precedent of Tom Waits on Tin Hat's 2000 Helium set, the new album boasts an iconic vocal guest—Willie Nelson, who sings a particularly affecting, cliché-free version of "Willow Weep for Me." In a just world, Nelson's tenderly plangent vocal and the tune's pitch-perfect, tumbleweeds-tumbling-in-the-breeze arrangement by Tin Hat guitarist Mark Orton would resonate from radios across the country. Yet the entire disc brims with bewitching sounds; with rare élan, Orton, violinist Carla Kihlstedt, and multi-keyboard ace Rob Burger (along with guests from Medeski, Martin & Wood and Phish) manage an evergreen rapprochement between old instruments (strings, accordion, pump organ, banjo) and fresh, refreshing ideas.—BB