Christian Kiefer
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Christian Kiefer

Band Americana Acoustic

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Kiefer sings in a understated voice...the fragility and emotion are genuine, the intonation precise yet natural, giving his singing the power to rip through your chest like Phil Ochs or Tori Amos in her early days — yes, that would be heresy putting these two names side by side, but wait until you hear him sing "How to Kill an Indian" backed only by Michael Madden's piano. Damn, it's beautiful. The best part is that Welcome to Hard Times becomes more infectious with every listen. Albums like this don't come often — and it's only his debut! — - All Music Guide


[Kiefer’s music is] similar to the stillness of Low, the warm earthiness of Mark Kozelek, and the macabre twang of Songs:Ohia and Will Oldham/Palace... Depressing in a good way. - Aquarius Records


I have one thing to say about Christian Kiefer: It’s GREAT to hear new music! - Thurston Moore


Christian Kiefer will perhaps go down in the music annals as the inventor of country ambient… It sounds surprisingly new and unspent. Though there are some folk and country loans…you can hardly draw any parallels to any other musicians or concepts. - Jazzthetik (Germany)


[Medicine Show] traces the plight and flight of a man fallen from grace, who awakens to find himself in a world devoid of reason... The themes may be old but the music and uplifting message are timeless. 4 out of 5 stars. - The Age (Melbourne, Australia)


The proper sequel to Christian Kiefer's 2000 CD Welcome to Hard Times (Exodust was a very different affair), Medicine Show tones down the experimental sound textures but otherwise follows a similar approach. At its heart is Kiefer's brilliant songwriting: tortured, yearning, intelligent, yet very emotional. Despite a certain recess from experimentation, the music is not the least bit more mainstream; the strength of Kiefer's songs resides in the balance he strikes between the immediacy of the folk idiom (the bare bones of his banjo-and-voice performance) and the quirks of his arrangements (the genre-crossing between post-folk, post-rock, emo, and traditional folk). Like Welcome to Hard Times and his half of the split CD The Inexplicable Falling, Medicine Show takes the form of a continuous story unfolding through separate installments (songs). These are grouped in "acts" of sorts, separated by four "Snake Oil" interludes consisting of a solo banjo accompanying a soapbox philosopher's litany of mankind's physical and psychological ailments. These illnesses answer the main character's healing process after going through hard, personally redefining times, a story told once again through the prism of gold rush-era America. The album features a cast of guests from the post-folk and avant-garde scenes (including Blue Man Group's Jason Sinclair Long and ex-Kronos Quartet cellist Joan Jeanrenaud), but as enjoyable as their contributions are, they never distract from Kiefer's stellar songwriting, some of the best of his generation. Highlights include the opening "Come Up" (with Jeanrenaud), "Bad Dreams," "Stumble," and "Slack" (the latter featuring an inspired electric violin solo from Darol Anger), although they all slightly pale when compared to the album's closer, the magnificent "Dream On Sweet Life," a typical emotional folk song, Kiefer style. Highly recommended. - All Music Guide


Discography

Medicine Show (Extreme 2003)
Exodust (Extreme 2003)
The Inexplicable Falling (Mudita 2002)
Let the Skrowleton Die (Mudita 2001)
Welcome to Hard Times (Extreme 1999)

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Bio

An acoustic musician and songwriter who has recorded with members of the Band, Low, Wilco, Blue Man Group, Kronos Quartet, and the David Grisman Quintet, Christian Kiefer grew up in an area of California famous for the gold rush of the 1840s and 50s. It was a childhood spent around the ever-present detritus of that period of history: abandoned mine shafts, rusting hulks of stamp mills, ruins long since forgotten. As he began working towards a life in the arts, these images returned to him, appearing again and again in fiction, poetry, and music, becoming the thread which binds his work together.

Kiefer began his life in the arts through a fascination with the written word. This fascination is reflected in a long line of publications. His poetry and fic-tion have appeared in many of America‘s most prestigious literary journals. He is the author of three novels, the most recent of which is Out of Iron.

Kiefer‘s path led him to Los Angeles, where he studied with novelist T. Coraghessan Boyle and poet David St. John. He then returned to Northern California where he spent several years researching and writing about revi-sionist Westerns at California State University Sacramento. CSUS awarded him a Masters degree in Literature in 1997.

His interests in academia has continued and he is now working towards his Ph.D. in 20th century American literature at University of California, Davis, where he is focussing on the novels and poetry of Jim Harrison.

Kiefer’s 2000 release, Welcome to Hard Times, was embraced by music crit-ics and fans as defining a new genre of American music. Hailed by one critic as “the inventor of country ambient” and described by another as “folk music free of its leaves and deadwood,” Kiefer’s project redefined the his-tory of the American West, casting a musical response in line with current revisionist historians and scholars. The album’s spoken word track “Giants” received heavy airplay in Europe and the album’s closer, “Erendira,” was popular with college radio in the U.S. (Interestingly, “Erendira” is back on U.S. college radio again, this time in a cover version performed by San Francisco-based indie rock band Above the Orange Trees.)

Medicine Show, Kiefer’s newest release, is a collection of songs centering around a narrative of regeneration and emotional survival. Medicine Show features performances by Stephen Yerkey, Joan Jeanrenaud (Kronos Quar-tet), Mike Madden (from Welcome to Hard Times), Rob Bonner (South Loomis Quickstep), Darol Anger and Mike Marshall (Anger-Marshall Band), Joe Craven (David Grisman Quintet), and Jason Sinclair Long (Blue Man Group).

Work on Kiefer’s next project, a narrative about economics titled Dogs & Donkeys, has already begun, with guest appearances from Alan Sparkhawk and Mimi Park from Duluth slow-core heroes LOW and the Band's Garth Hudson.