Bonnie Bishop, Alexa Woodward, Trio Del Rio, and Hilary York
Reviewed by Margaret Moser, Fri., Aug. 28, 2009
Things I Know says it all about Bonnie Bishop: that her songwriting has taken on a confidence that usually takes longer to develop; that such songs as "Lucky Ones" and "I Think I Will" do more than suggest good things; that her showstopping "River of Joy" reminds us in these days of random shuffle that a soulful gem building like a rising tide belongs in the first three tracks, not buried in the mix. Speck, Alexa Woodward's monosyllabic CD title, reflects the mostly one-word song titles ("Boston," "Hours," "Plants") indicative of the sameness throughout the album. Woodward's gentle, loping, folksy compositions are beautifully rendered with Guy Forsyth's saw, Trevor Smith's banjo, and her own charming vocals, yet they beg for one tune to push her to the next level. Anything MaryAnn Price does is guaranteed to be vocally golden, so it's no surprise that Trio Del Rio's This Time Around It is a sterling collection of engagingly percussive, vaguely Dan Hicks-ish songs from the team of Tanner Swain and MariLisa with Price. Their velvety neo-swing makes you long for cooler climbs while scanning the back 40 ("Ever Since I Met'cha," "Blown Away," "What's to Say"), refreshing and relaxing, just when life demands a chill pill. Hilary York's new In the Dark is what Girlie Action dreams about. York's first disc landed squarely in the huge, got-some-promise-here stack, but In the Dark upgrades her to rubbing shoulders with the likes of BettySoo. Vocally, she's still a couple years, some whiskey, and a few cartons of cigarettes from Marianne Faithfull, with a slight rasp, occasionally flat, that makes her sound endearingly vulnerable. From the opening wallop of "Jaded" through the country strains of "Shutters and Doors" and a delicious cover of Randy Newman's "Baltimore," York's promise is now being fulfilled.