by Richie UnterbergerBritish singer/songwriter Sharron Kraus is very much in the school of subdued yet haunting, at times foreboding progressive British folk music of artists that flourished in the 1960s and 1970s such as Shirley Collins and Bert Jansch. Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits, and the Violent Femmes are also mentioned as inspirations on the credits to her first album. But really, Kraus is far more British than any of those artists in her approach with both respects to her material and instrumentation, though she does share a bent for brooding darkness with the likes of Cohen and Waits. The songs on her 2002 debut album, Beautiful Twisted, though all self-penned, are very much in the folk tradition in their emphasis upon ballads of somber romance, abandonment, and isolation. Though the emphasis is on her acoustic guitar, the arrangements also intelligently add fiddle, bass, banjo, and other instruments. Kraus, who has a doctorate in philosophy from Oxford University, has been involved in various other projects outside of her solo career, including playing as percussionist in the world folk band Captain Swing; singing and playing keyboards in Obsidian; working in electronic music with the Waiting Room and acoustic music with Irish American country-folk group Belshaw; and writing music for a documentary about environmental activist Julia Butterfly.