Natalie Zoe, Sue Perskin, Tif Ginn, and Penny Ney
Reviewed by Margaret Moser, Fri., July 6, 2012
Four female singer-songwriters from the Austin area, all counting decades of work behind them, make a patchwork quilt as warm and strong as it is colorful. For Natalie Zoe, The High Road isn't merely another CD, but rather a promise she made to herself and didn't know it. Such is this "career" album, with production by AJ Vallejo, which brims with the confidence only time brings ("Put the Posse on It," "It's Too Hot"). Zoe hits the Road with a brash, unfettered look at the three L's: life, love, and loss, minus any middle-age self-pity or curlicue endings. So You Don't Go Barefoot, Sue Perskin's seventh album, which snuck out in late 2011, is also the first to be hers exclusively. That's a limited output for the woman who led one of the pioneering Texas psych acts of the Sixties, Shiva's Headband, as songwriter, singer, and musician. Barefoot is a winsome summer romp: rootsy and poetic folk at its most expansive, with hints of jazz and other subtle variations ("Corazón Pathetique"). Even if Tif Ginn is the baby out of these four women, she's also done this all her life, most notably as one-half of the Ginn Sisters. She owns this self-titled recording with alluring vocals and wickedly wry/sly songs co-written with her husband Bill Passalacqua ("Little White Pills") and co-producer Fred Eaglesmith ("Tejas Mission," "Scream"). That Ginn's solo work is as spot-on as her sibling teamwork – she evokes Lucinda Williams' needle-sharp early work – makes Tif Ginn one of 2012's quiet gems. Penny Ney's name has gathered dust for far too long considering her lively, local presence in the Seventies, singing solo and with Gypsee Eyes. Her first recording in many a moon, The Hardest Truth seals her case in five songs. Ron Flynt's fine production with Ney's lusty vocals lends the San Antonio sound to "Lonely Street" and a dance-floor sway to "Love Is the Diamond" and "Empty Arms Win." This is Hill Country music, and nothing Nashville manufactures touches its homespun charm and authenticity.