tradition through a '90s prism

How Can I Sleep? (Okra)
Cordelia's Dad

By Kory Wilcoxson

There's something warmly comforting about Cordelia's Dad's lead singer Tim Eriksen. It's not overly harmonic, but has an off-kilter appeal similar to Michael Stipe of REM.

In fact, familiarity is a thread running throughout How Can I Sleep, an uneven but adventurous album from this trio. The bulk of the songs are traditional hymns of folklore reworked with a modern-day accompaniment. It's risky, but Cordelia's Dad general makes it work.

The group breathes life into these ageless songs with a variety of styles. "Farewell to Old Bedford" is done in an eerie a cappella; "Idumea" flip-flops between hovering organ chords and crunchy guitar; and "Delia" is snappy and up-tempo.

But by far the best tune is "Narragansett Bay," the tale of lost young love very similar to "Clementine." The music is inescapably catchy, and my rewind button got a workout repeating this song.

Some of the songs come off as flat and uninspiring, like "San Francisco," but for the most part Cordelia's Dad has taken musical fossils and turned them into modern-day folk ear ticklers.