Label: Orange Dress Records
Released: March 17, 2009
On the surface, Kate Mann finds herself channeling a bit of Joni Mitchell and a bit of Janis Joplin, her music swinging gently across the short space between folk and blues. While it is that bit of Joni that shows up in a clever musical phrase here and there, it also manifests itself in the albums lighter, less compelling moments. But Mann’s reliance on Janis makes up for those underwhelming spots with songs that have teeth to bite and hands to touch the soul.
The best example of what Mann offers though is made clear on “Robert Johnson Knew.” Ever since Johnson sang about his encounter at the crossroads, the idea of selling one’s soul has been oddly glorified in popular music (much like suicide and drug addiction), but just about everyone misses the point. The crossroads isn’t a place for the happy or even the hedonistic. It is a place of torture and a moment of terrible decision. Mann questions if she’ll really have to sign in blood. She wonders how long is forever. She isn’t fabricating her demons, but vacillating between exorcising them or joining them. Honest dealing like this is at odds with the shallow lexicon of pop culture imagery. It is also Mann’s greatest strength. I hope she makes it back, soul intact, because I think she may just know a thing or two herself.
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