Although Po' Girl's biography refers to a "beautifully nostalgic sound," the Vancouver-based trio's take on traditional folk music on its second album, Vagabond Lullabies, couldn't sound more contemporary and cutting-edge.
In the midst of the Appalachian hollerin', country laments, sweet acoustic rock crooning, Dustbowl blues and Celtic-by-way-of-bluegrass airs, the three women who comprise Po' Girl also take time out for jazzy breakdowns, gospel wailing, Western swing and even a little hip-hop. Now that's a combination that you can actually call Americana (even if they are from Canada).
Po' Girl started a few years back as the side project of guitarist and banjo player Trish Klein, of the popular revisionist folk band The Be Good Tanyas. She is joined by Allison Russell on guitar, and clarinet, pennywhistle and fiddler extraordinaire Diona Davies. All three sing, and their harmonies, quite simply, are out of this world.
Guest artist C.R. Avery, known best as an award-winning slam poet, raps convincingly to the mid-tempo country lope "Take the Long Way," which is really quite moving. He also collaborates with Russell and Davies on the lovely memory poem "Driving," to which he adds twangy rap and some mean human beatboxing.
Other guests on the CD include Ani DiFranco, Frazey Ford of The Be Good Tanyas and slide guitarist Tony Scherr. If this is the interdisciplinary direction of folk music in the 21st century, it's worth embracing.