Singer-songwriter-guitarist Erin McKeown has a penchant for
engaging in genre-hopping on her albums, crisscrossing between swing
jazz, eclectic folk, rootsy rock, acoustic coffeehouse country, and
gritty blues with welts of new wave-tinged sprigs. She refuses to
change a formula that works for her since her latest CD, Hundreds
Of Lions, is made up of much the same components. Entirely written
by McKeown and produced by Sam Kassirer, the songs are cast
in a relaxing mood projecting an image of sitting on the front porch
and ruminating over life's ever-changing course while letting the
cool breeze caress the face. Joining McKeown on the recording are
Matthew Douglas on clarinets, flutes and saxophones, Sarah
Whitney on violin and viola, Kathryn Hufnagle on cello,
Allison Miller on drums and percussion, and Ariane Kassirer
on backing vocals. The summery complexion of the tracks is inviting,
and the contemplative bent in her musings is reminiscent of Damien
Rice with subtle eclectic spurts that have a kindred spirit with
the material of Leslie Feist.
Since McKeown has a bachelor's degree in ethnomusicology from Brown
University, maybe it is expected that she would have a tendency to
extract different facets of the music spectrum and dabble in experimenting
with the different ways that they can be woven together. Driven by
a need to be innovative, McKeown delivers a batch of cuddly folk-laced
pop tunes that build momentum as the album moves forward. The tippy
toe waddling of "To A Hammer" has a nursery rhyme schematic
that bridges into the quicker paced "Santa Cruz" with uplifting
knolls and bubbly vocals. The silky dirge of "You, Sailor"
is textbook acoustic pop, while the carnival tint of "The Foxes"
has a showtune's vibe. The molten, noir-tinged atmospherics of "Put
The Fun Back In The Funeral" complement McKeown's sultry vocals
and seamlessly transitions into the eclectic pop versing of "The
Lions". The jaunting strokes of "The Rascal" have a
swing jazz shuffle, which shift into the pacifying flutters of "28"
followed by the elegant riffs of "Seamless" reminiscent
of a church hymn.
Fraught with a number of twists and unexpected tweaking, Hundreds
Of Lions shows a creative approach to a folk-based repertoire.
Experimenting with ideas outside of the norm and weaving them with
folk-inspired influences, McKeown runs with it and carves out a niche
for herself in modern pop's world.
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