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Erin McKeown
Hundreds Of Lions
Righteous Babe
www.erinmckeown.com


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.

-Susan Frances

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