Risk of the Roar, Firebird, Little Tiny Secrets, Never the Pretty Girl
Kim Miller, Patricia Vonne, and Betty Soo
Reviewed by Margaret Moser, Fri., Nov. 16, 2007
Kim Miller doesn't believe in rushing things: It's been almost a decade since her last album, Child of the Big Sky. The local singer-songwriter is less about chasing fame than being completely satisfied with her sonic output, and her long-anticipated Risk of the Roar proves the wait was well worth it. Miller's confident vocals flow with the strength and beauty of the evening tide ("Soy Tu Sirena," "Dive in Deep"), encasing 12 roots-folk songs in the key of love ("Happenstance") with an undercurrent of caution and wariness ("Madame Bovary"). That she surrounded herself with stellar musicianship helps – Marvin Dykhuis, Cam King, and Mark Hallman, among others – but don't hold your breath waiting for her next recording: This is the one to savor. Patricia Vonne slammed her spike-heeled boot on the pedal to the metal for her third CD, Firebird (Bandolera). With each new recording, her Latin rock hybrid grows stronger, this one imbuing her rebel spirit ("Hot Rod Heart," "Jett Rink") with a potent political and social conscience. The opening track, "Missing Women," which casts a harsh light on the hundreds of vanished Latinas in Juárez, Mexico, is revisited at the end in Spanish as "Mujeres Desaparecidas." Vonne is one smart cookie, balanced between solid rock efforts like "Dutch Cigarette," the country inflection of "Karolina," and her Spanish-language beauties "Torera" and "La Huerta de San Vicente." Betty Soo appears an unlikely candidate for a pop singer-songwriter, a second-generation Korean raised in Texas with a name that sounds like Buddy Holly gave it to her. Her gifts aren't only the lovely and poignant Little Tiny Secrets but also a four-song EP released simultaneously, Never the Pretty Girl. Together, they frame Soo's picture-perfect lyrics ("You've Got a Way," "The Hard Way," "Secrets") and sweet soprano on a background of lush melodies that linger in the head ("Easy Living," "New Color"). Of the three women here, Soo is the one flying the most below the radar. If that doesn't change with this album, kick the machinery.