James Elkington has a voice like Leonard Cohen, a morose, ramshackle, and whiskey-stained voice that whispers to you through a host of folk-themed instrumentation, and Janet Bean is the complement to his downtrodden croon. The duo comprises the core of the Horse’s Ha, a Chicago chamber group whose debut record, Of the Cathmawr Yards, offers a compelling alternative to the self-absorbed guy/girl folk duo, which is all but ubiquitous on the coffeehouse circuit. Elkington’s vocals usually take the lead here, but the album’s saving grace is the various styles that match up to the duo’s harmonizing. Jazz-tinged alt-country through the brushstrokes of a snare. Strings and guitars climb on board but remain unobtrusive. It’s a comfort record really, sincere in intention and almost flawless in execution.
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