Rhythm & Views


Aren't enough plaintive alt-country bands sowing their quiet neo-traditional angst and ennui across the musical landscape these days? No, it turns out. Inspired evidence to the contrary can be found on the new CD Violence in the Snowy Fields by Portland, Ore., band Dolorean.

Fronted by singer-songwriter Al James, the depth of emotion and musical sophistication of this new disc is a little shocking. James warbles and quavers like a grown-up, less pretentious and more engaged Will Oldham. He sings each song with passion and conviction, as well as a clear sense of humanism.

Dolorean's music is clearly positioned along the same continuum that includes such influential acts as Buffalo Springfield and the Byrds, Gram Parsons and the Flying Burrito Brothers, the Jayhawks and Uncle Tupelo. You can hear it in the Lord-fearing "The Search" and in the lazy waltz of "Holding On," with its sweet inflections of fiddle.

James and Co. also know how to mix things up, such as employing Beatlesque harmonies on "To Destruction"; a stark folk setting (a la early Leonard Cohen) on "Put You to Sleep"; a stinging guitar solo on the title track; and soulful electric piano and string section in "Dying in Time."

Dolorean's appeal lies in Al James' gentle approach to the battle between darkness and light.

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