Saturday, July 10, 2010

Cindy Lee Berryhill: Straight Outta Marysville (1996)

(As published in B-Side ... )

Cindy Lee Berryhill
Straight Outta Marysville

Like most fourteen-song CDs, this follow-up to Berryhill's '94 breakthrough Garage Orchestra goes on too long. But, also like most fourteen-song CDs, it can also be edited with a programing button. The songs to skip are the ones that sound forced: “The Virtues of Being Apricot” and “Talkin' with a Mineral” come off gratuitously flakey, and “Elvis of Maryville” and Donovan's “Season of the Witch” do little with their evocation of rock iconography. Only when Berryhill anchors her writing in verbal or musical hooks does she avoid drowning in quasi-Dylanisms ("Picasso's in the living room playing with the baby boom") or floating off with her helium-filled voice; with such anchors deployed, she scores big. Vibraphone and cello elevate “Unwritten Love Song” into twilight time, sheer verbal energy strips the empathetic “Just like Me” of pretense, and a happy religious fatalism turns “Unknown Master Painter” into a livelier piece of Deistic folk-rock than either “From a Distance” or “One of Us.” Then there's the truly oddball “Diane,” Berryhill's confession of love for a girl who used to be a guy or vice versa. (It's unclear what the doctors have "turned inside out.")

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