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And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats - Matthew 25:32

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June 07, 2006


CD Reviews: Patria Jacobs, Tracie Morgan, Josie Cotton, L'il Hospital
I've got several new albums here that I've gathered over the last couple of months that I want to say a few words for. None of them are major masterpieces, but they've all got their charms. They might be of interest to you if you're into some of the things I'd compare them to.

The one I've actually listened to the most is Poison of the Sea by Patria Jacobs. She came to attention as a protege of Stew, The Negro Problem incarnate. Like Stew, I'd broadly call this arty California singer-songwriter stuff, descendents of blessed Brian Wilson. I'm not saying that either of them will make you forget Pet Sounds, but you can come in a couple of rungs down from that and still be making a pretty good record.

The most memorable song is "Hurricane," a tale of not exactly in love lovers that she co-wrote with Stew (one of two on the album). They get a a pretty good hurricane swirling, partly courtesy of Stew's guest keyboards.

She manages to gets nicely atmospheric and subtly varied arrangements that sound like more than the sometimes just a couple of instruments actually playing. Saying it differently, all the instruments count. My other favorite song is the title track, "Poison of the Sea." I was a little surprised to see that this was just piano, bass, and acoustic guitar. I want to give a special shout out to a Corky Hale for some nice harp on "Nautical Song." Really, just about every song here is at least pretty good.

I've also been listening a bit to a Canuck chick name of Tracie Morgan that brother Blogcritic Richard Marcus turned me onto. The looks of her make me want to say "Gooble, gobble- one of us!" In the grooves, however, she's not particularly freakish. That works against her some with me, in that my taste in singer-songwriter gals runs more to the psycho chicks- Fiona Apple or Tori Amos, say. Miss Tracie is known to be a fan of such stuff, but this album is tamer or perhaps just more sane. Then again, some folks actually PREFER sane.

Stylistically, this is closer to, say, Jewel- not that she particularly sounds like her. From that basis of comparison, there's nothing here as memorable as "Who Will Save Your Soul?" On the other hand, there's nothing here quite so stiflingly earnest as that either, and this would run at least equal to about anything else I've heard from her. Best thing here for my money would be the fairly simple blues "Black Cat, Blue," describing an ominous feline of which she's no longer afraid.

Moving into more rock and roll terrain, I'm getting some good out of Josie Cotton's Movie Disaster Music. She's stylistically working in a range I favor, a songwritery rock. She's not particularly blasting away, but there's a little alt-rock agitation. She's got some decent bit of studio effects that nicely set off competent basic songwriting, though the songs are trailing off by the end.

Still, that opening trip down the "Rabbit Hole" is quite catchy. That opening lyrical image of the girl in the news with the missing head gives the whole song a little grit in the craw that gives the thing a little edge. I anticipate this spending some time on the iPod.

Also due for some iPod time is "Looking for Elvis." She's conjured up a bit of that classic Elvis rock and roll, but in a more interesting alt-rock production as she looks for the king at the Piggly Wiggly. I particularly appreciate the studio trickery by which the song winds down in the last half minute.

Finally, just to throw a bit of testosterone in the mix, there's The L'il Hospital album Heavy Metal. This is about as much to do with heavy metal as Queen had to do with "jazz." They don't strike me as particularly stylistically innovative- but I'm not thinking of anything that they sound quite like. Their band titular song "I'm a Little Hospital" would obviously be coming from Jonathan Richman land. The childlike gentility and simple acoustic guitar also put this in the range of Richman's classic "I'm a Little Dinosaur." The "Office Rock" runs in that general "Government Center" direction.

Other parts range a little heavier. The power chords of titular album song "Heavy Metal" are fairly satisfying, with enough interest in the arrangement to compliment a decent song. That's probably the best place to start if you're interested.

Overall, I don't know how memorable all these songs are, but they at least make some sense as you listen to them. That's already putting them above average. If you're into stuff in the range of Jonathan Richman, or perhaps the Violent Femmes, you might dig Heavy Metal.

posted by Al at 6/07/2006 12:18:00 AM

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