Jean Synodinos, the Ginn Sisters, Julieann Banks, Jelly Jar, Julie Burrell, and Kerry Polk
Reviewed by Margaret Moser, Fri., June 18, 2004
Girlie Action's J cups runneth over, and Candye Kane isn't even around. Instead, we get Lucky (Fortunate Records) with local singer-songwriter Jean Synodinos. The 11 cuts are wry and scattershot, from the jazzy trumpet of "I Want to Know You" to her divine Bobbie Gentry tribute, "Ode to Billie Joe." As fine a vocalist as she is a composer, Synodinos' Lucky is among the most overlooked albums of recent memory. Include Generally Happy by the Ginn Sisters in that same category. Brittani and Tiffani Ginn must be fending off comparisons to cherub-faced versions of the Damnations, but their jubilant sisterhood is powerful to say the least. Darcie Deaville produced this gem, 13 rootsy pearls including a bluegrass version of "Faded Love" and fabulous sibling harmonies on "Blue Monday." Julieann Banks, formerly of Austin's Apaches of Paris, relocated to her native Louisiana, but even produced in Muscle Shoals, the Dixie salute of Magazine and Race has a definitive Texas sentiment to it ("Somewhere in South Austin"). Outstanding cuts include "Waltzing on Water" and "Gravity Trains," good news for her longtime fans. Jelly Jar's new Preserved (Fifth String) is a stone pleasure, 10 tracks from a bluegrass jam session featuring backing vocalist Karen Peters, lately of the femme vocal group Hot Flash. Peters plays Emmylou to a room full of Grams on an album to pull out when you need to describe the "Austin sound." The eight tracks on Julie Burrell's Julie Jazz highlight some two decades of vocalizing in Austin, and her rich tone hasn't lost its spell. Julie Jazz is a cool summer blend, half originals ("Backhand"), half covers ("Summertime"), with a funky blue edge. Hardtop Jubilee is Kerry Polk's debut solo CD, and Mark Hallman delivers the usual quality production. Polk's no newbie to the scene; she's recorded extensively and performed as one-third of Polk, Barton & Towhead. Though Hardtop sounds like a solo debut, a bit tentative, Polk's songwriting is seamless and engaging.