Knife in the Water’s sound isn’t terribly new. But then again, that’s why it’s so good. Delving into influences ranging from gospel and Appalachian folk ballads, channeled through a healthy dose of country and western, and maybe a murder ballad or two, Knife in the Water is about as old-timey as it gets. That probably explains why their songs feel so familiar, a little slice of Americana right there in your stereo, albeit one that’s dimly lit and sorrowful.
Although Crosspross Bells starts off on a weak note, with the rollicking “From The Catbird Seat,” the EP’s other 4 songs quickly settle into those things that make Knife in the Water’s music so beautiful and alluring. There’s the dusty vocal harmonies of Laura Krause and Aaron Blount; although they may not quite reach the heights of, say, Low’s Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker, the duo has a tired, ghostly quality all of their own. There’s the solid instrumentation, which is quite content to unfold at a languid, restrained pace. Nothing flashy because there’s nothing to hide.
And tying it all together is Bill McCullough’s simple, yet gorgeous work on the lap steel. His playing is never flashy or dominant, but rather hovers in the background, adding an air of longing (“Exploding Seagulls”) or driving home the vocals (“A Lesson”).
Knife in the Water breaks no new ground on this here EP, but they take a sound that feels so vintage, you’re afraid dust will pour out of the CD when you open it and breathe new life into the old dog. Even when Knife in the Water is at their most measured and restrained (the creepy “Crosshair Chapel”), it’s a compelling listen. And the album’s delicate closer, where Blount and Krause’s harmonies are backed by McCullough’s sadder-than-sad lap steel, is enough to make you order a beer just so you have something, anything to cry into.