When: Sat., Jan. 19, 8 p.m. 2013
It’s natural for a band that formed nearly two decades ago to do some stock taking, and that’s what Dolly Varden are up to on their first album in six years, the lovely new For a While (Mid-Fi). As usual all the songs were written by guitarist and vocalist Steve Dawson—his wife, singer Diane Christiansen, chips in on a couple—and his glances at the past include scattered images of his childhood on the dreamy “Del Mar, 1976” and his family’s four-generation search for a better life on “Saskatchewan to Chicago” (“I went following the footsteps of a friendship that ended in Chicago / I will never understand how that was 22 years ago”). But the songs aren’t all autobiographical. “Girl in a Well” is a slightly maudlin ballad about the lasting mark the death of a young girl leaves on the narrator, and “Temperamental Complement”—where a filter gives Christiansen’s voice a faraway feel—describes tensions that threaten to rip a couple apart (and bind it together with the determination to overcome them). Most of the album revels in the camaraderie that’s held the group together for so long, and with few exceptions it’s subdued, pretty, and a bit melancholy, tempering its sentimentality with recollections of bygone travails—on “Done (Done),” for instance, Dawson regrets his dalliances with the music business, which has given Dolly Varden the cold shoulder for years. For a While makes me grateful the band has soldiered on anyway. —Peter Margasak Jenny Bienemann opens.