The ingredient that separates Kihlstedt in any musical setting is her emotional intensity -- you never forget where she is onstage, whether she's cutting in with the perfect stroke or contributing a plaintive howl. The layers that Kihlstedt adds to her own music -- weaving the violin in and out, over and around her voice, using her vocals as a counterpoint to her supple tunes -- are nothing short of stunning.
A good example of her unique style is 2 Foot Yard's "Rooting for the Shy Librarian," a deceptively simple back-and-forth between melodic violin phrases and soft syncopated chants. On "Flash Flood" Kihlstedt swings closer to a rock-oriented sound, letting a simple, repeated vocal line drive her frantic fingerings to dizzying heights. Her passionate rendering of F.W. McGee's "50 Miles" showcases her two instruments more separately, but no less powerfully, while "Patchen" sets the words of neglected poet Kenneth Patchen to a melody that alternates between quiet and driving.
With Marika Hughes providing cello backing on most tracks and Shahzad Ismaily contributing drums, cajon, and acoustic guitar, 2 Foot Yard's compositions resemble Tin Hat Trio's. But Kihlstedt's voice -- seldom utilized so well in the past -- sets these new recordings apart. Blended in with her usual intense playing, Kihlstedt's singing takes her music to a whole new level.