Candye Kane, Vanessa Peters & Ice Cream on Mondays, Maren Morris, and Kathy Smock

White Trash Girl, Thin Thread, Walk On, and Sweet Nothing (Ruf)

Girlie Action

Spring arrived with Candye Kane's dandy new White Trash Girl (Ruf), cut right here in Austin. Produced by Mark Kazanoff and featuring Preston Hubbard on bass, Kane also tapped local bassist Sarah Brown to co-write three songs, including "Queen of the Wrecking Ball." The result is a riotous roots-rock collection about feminine empowerment ("Estrogen Bomb") as biographical ("White Trash Girl") as it is bisexual ("What Happened to the Girl"). Kane's enduring theme, bigger is better, gets the usual play ("Big Fat Mamas Are Back in Style"), and it comes straight from her big ol' heart. Vanessa Peters & Ice Cream on Mondays' Thin Thread follows up 2003's Sparkler with a giant step forward. "The Maybe Love Song," "A Few Nights' Confusion," and "You're Losing Me" skew indie rock more than roots rock, balancing folk and pop deftly. Peters' grasp of her craft matched her confidence. Maren Morris' Walk On, produced by local pop mentor Stephen Doster, will attract good notices no matter what the case, but the fact that she's a high school freshman makes her worth a second look. Morris' supple vocals highlight 10 tender songs of self-examination ("Girl I See") and growth ("Rain") amidst the wonder of life unfolding. Her tendency is toward country rock ("Help Wanted"), and here's hoping she follows her instincts. Another luminous offering comes from Kathy Smock with Sweet Nothing. It's as good a rock debut as Mina Mauldin's SuperPsychoticQueen last year, but layered more percussively. No surprise there, as Austin percussive dynamo Courtney Audain produced and arranged the album, yet it's Smock's songs that really shine; she wrote or co-wrote all 12. Standouts include "I'm Falling Down"; "Shoe Song," with its Southern rock feel; and the title track, all of which signal that Smock is something else.

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