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Album Review

ERIN IVEY
& THE FINEST KIND
Broken Gold

First thing I heard when I plugged Broken Gold into the system was a whole string of string of singer/songwriters who put out exceptional music and get way too little in return. Like Natalia Zukerman, whose Gas Station Roses caught me by surprise with its beauty (and freakishly good slide guitar work); like Meg Hutchinson, a lady about whom I'd heard but had unfairly ignored until I came across 2010's The Living Side which still sits on the desk for occasional listenings, it is so good; like Pieta Brown, who absolutely floored me with One and All, which by all rights should have put her solidly in the public eye--- solidly; and like Carsie Blanton, one of Philadelphia's best kept secrets and whose Buoy has been trumpeted by critics and musicians alike (my thanks to Devon Sproule, who pointed me in her direction). It isn't that Erin Ivey sounds like them, exactly, but they all have in common a sense of melody which is sometimes lost in the perceived need to be different, that gimmick which some think they need in order to be heard in the massive white wall of noise unloosed by the digital age.

Neither Ivey nor the others I mentioned has a gimmick nor do they need one. They overcome the obstacles with simple melody and harmony (alongside that amazing ability to match words to music). I could tell after the first few chords of Ivey's Pierre Latour, a song apparently about a missionary in old-time Texas, a person so committed to his calling that he braved a wilderness of both the land and the soul. The way Ivey sings it, you cannot help but feel the depths of a man who believed so deeply that he would give up all comforts to save someone from the depths of hell. I could hear it in Amelia, a light rocker smoothed out by the lounge sound of The Finest Kind, perfect backing for Ivey's slightly jazzy voice. Light shuffling percussion, bedrock but buoyant bass and flowingly elegant electric piano put wind under Ivey's wings as she almost floats away. And I could hear it in Little Star, a teardrop of a lullaby painting a picture of a future not yet seen.

Lest you be thinking downer music, let me say that Broken Gold is not all contemplation and reflection. She has an up side and she shows it well, shining just enough light to push the lonesome and darkness aside. You Got Your Wishes Wrong has a dub/Latin flavor to it, lightly salted with that voice (and the harmonies therefrom). A little trip-hop spices up the lighthearted Go! Go! Go!, a riffy combination of hip-hop and, what? Folk? Pop? Either will do. You wouldn't think it would work, but it really does. Very well. And there is Chocolate, which begins in sultry fashion and in French only to turn into sultry and English, a steamy version of what Brigitte Bardot might have done during her run at singing had she had the pipes.

If this album is impressive, and it is, it belongs to everyone involved. Ivey has put together an impressive collection of topnotch songs, The Finest Kind provide outstanding backing without even once stepping outside of bounds and Ivey's voice--- God, but what a voice! Almost childlike in its simplicity with wide range and phrasing which fits each song perfectly. Production? First-rate.

Need I go on? I certainly hope not. The question is, if you've read this far, is it worth it to follow a link and sample the music? It is astonishing to me how few people do. In spite of the new music awaiting. In spite of the adventure. In spite of an insistence that they want good music. I sigh. For those who do go on, welcome to some mighty fine music. For the others, what can I say except--- you lose.

By the way, if you're ever in Austin and you have a chance to see Ivey (or anywhere else, for that matter), don't pass it up. Especially if The Finest Kind is backing her up. As impressive as this album is, I would put money that the live show is better.

Frank O. Gutch Jr.

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