Xylouris White Credit: Manolis Mathioudakis

On its fantastic fourth album, Mother (Bella Union), stirring Cretan-Australian duo Xylouris White masterfully expands its reach without surrendering the essential intimacy and bruising power that’s made it more than the sum of its parts. Cretan singer and lyre player George Xylouris and drummer Jim White are expansive players who together produce a bigger sound than one might expect from such a stark lineup. This time out they introduce additional instrumentation in the form of rustic viola and violin bowing from guest Anna Roberts-Gevalt of the superb Kentucky folk duo Anna & Elizabeth. On “In Medias Res” the three musicians deftly connect Appalachian tones to Mediterranean ones while White brings his jazzlike command of his kit to the foreground, playing mostly cymbals and pieces of metal (though he beats the hell out of his instrument throughout most of the record). The stomping “Only Love” features Xylouris alternating between his usual over-the-top strumming and nimble single-note runs on his twangy lyre before it’s suddenly punctuated by judiciously deployed syncopated handclaps. As a mewling overtone drone oozes from wailing lyre chords on “Motorcycle Kondilies,” Xylouris unleashes an unexpectedly soulful falsetto that balances the raw, often howling Cretan folk style that marks his earlier work with a newly refined melodic side. When the duo takes on traditional tunes such as “Woman From Anogeia,” White’s intuitive cymbal play and scratching snare patter leave a clear, modern, and thrilling mark on the performance. Sure, their outfit is stripped down, but rather than exhausting possibilities, they constantly open up new ones.   v