On Shining Down, a parade of offbeat characters is treading the boards: "That Wicky Wacky Hula Hula Honka Wonka Honolulu Hawaiian Honey of Mine" comes from Radio Gals (his musical about an all-girl radio station in the 1920s). The recipient of an equine mail-order bride, whose "nose was an organ of singular strength, as renowned for its width as it was for its length," is a character from "Bosh and Moonshine," (his show about an Old West music hall). The CD's title track is sung from the points of view of four High Plains characters: a gunslinger, a Shakespearean actor, an undertaker, and a dance hall girl. And the namesake of "Diamond Lil" is a short order cook from Pennsylvania with a knack for pyromania.
There's pure sentiment, too, in a cover of "Rhode Island is Famous for You," from the 1948 musical, Inside U.S.A., and in original numbers like "Everyone's Gone to the Moon." People don't write music and wordplay like this anymore, but Craver does, with tremendous affection.
In this regard, he's only doing with a piano what revivalists like the early Ramblers did with fiddles and banjos: recreating the feel and sound of an era he loves, putting his personal stamp on it, and giving us something unique and new that seems vaguely--and wonderfully--familiar.