The Rain Is a Handsome Animal is the first Tin Hat album to feature founding member and violinist Carla Kihlstedt as a singer. The seventeen tracks on this CD are settings of poems by E. E. Cummings. Although all four members have contributed compositions to this collection, the music carries the same careful, colourful atmosphere throughout. This is partly due to the sensitive way in which Kihlstedt voices the lines, shaped as if the words gently float about in the wind. In the poem-song “Sweet Spring” she sounds breathless and wide-eyed with love. In others, her voice dances lightly along the lines. But it’s always the warmth of the instrumental backing, sometimes in a shy waltz or tango, that she can lean against—like a chanteuse at a piano—that supports her. In “Buffalo Bill” the music takes on the guise of a church hymn, bathing in the melancholic glory of a brass quartet. All is suffused with a calm, muted sensibility, which at times breaks through with passionate determination. The instrumentation of clarinet, (Ben Goldberg), violin, (Carla Kihlstedt), accordion (Rob Reich), and guitar (Mark Orton) lends the music a chamber-music feel that sometimes has a folksy touch, sometimes a jazzy touch, and at times a ghostly shimmer of Weimar cabarets. The Rain . . . is a welcome and rare musical embrace.