Dolly Varden is a band named after a fish that happens to sound like Dolly Parton -- the fish's name, that is, not the fish itself or the band. Though the group's songs reveal certain country-music overtones, Dolly Varden is more properly considered a pop/rock band of a distinctly old-fashioned -- some might say classic -- type. Dolly Varden has its own style, of course, but it fits in comfortably alongside Jules Shear, Squeeze, Linda Thompson and, most especially, Clive Gregson. The basic approach is a foursquare, three-guitar/bass/drums sound churning out mostly beautiful, mostly midtempo, mostly melodically rich songs. Like blues or country music, for that matter, this pop/rock format seems capable of supporting infinite permutations on its blueprint.
Formed in 1994 by spouses Stephen Dawson and Diane Christiansen, the band has developed over the years with a seeming lack of musical ego. Each member plays multiple instruments and builds arrangements that emphasize the songs rather than the formidable skills of the players. The group's fourth album, Forgiven Now, improves on the blueprint but doesn't radically alter it. It's more consistent and elaborate than Dumbest Magnets, Dolly Varden's excellent recording of two years back, but it offers the same delights.