Reviewed by Margaret Moser, Fri., May 24, 2002
Lisa MednickSemaphore (Texas Music Group) With Semaphore, her second solo recording, Austin's Lisa Mednick ups the ante for herself by inching closer to Lucinda Williams' turf without actually encroaching on it ("No More Rain," Chickamauga"). That's largely because she distances herself from the singer-songwriter category by emphasizing her musicianship. The local multi-instrumentalist has accrued enough history to satisfy the snottiest credential-sniffers (Earl King, Juliana Hatfield, Half Japanese, Charles Neville, Alejandro Escovedo, Tanya Donnelly, Radney Foster), distilling that experience into Semaphore's intelligent offering. Mednick's vocals aren't the most distinctive -- her range is limited -- but the voice suits the material, and the two are entwined inextricably. The dozen tunes carry a purposeful weight, sometimes melodically, sometimes lyrically. On "Widow of This World," she assumes a Patti Smith-like chant at the end, and on "Feed the Beast" she warns, "With one hand I held out a carrot, behind my back a butcher knife." That's where shying away from the singer-songwriter labels might get her in trouble; Mednick's a poet of the first order. "When I walk away in three-quarter time, it's a sad Louisiana waltz," she sings on the song of the same name, ethereal but never fey. She has a secret, and maybe that's the semaphore the title song refers to, Lisa Mednick's private code for the heart and mind.