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Album Review

LUCILLE BLACK
Betty Does Veronica?
Finally!

We all knew it had to come out eventually. There had to be a reason ol' Archie couldn't seem to make hay with Betty or Veronica. I mean, how hard could it be to get a date and how many years did he try? Yes, indeed. This says a lot!

What it says is that if you want to make it big in music, don't get sued by Archie Comics. Better to make it one of those universally despised corporations hellbent on destroying the world through toxic poisons--- or Microsoft. You see, Lucille Black evidently started out in a band called Betty Does Veronica. Somehow (that damn Internet!) word found wings to Archie Comics and the corporate moguls huddled with legal and, well, it was cease and desist time. Nothing big. Just a letter saying, hey, we would appreciate it if you would stop using the name because, well, we have this family image and all. Betty Does Veronica were not dummies, though, and could read the invisible ink at the end of the letter saying “or we'll sue your ass!”, so Betty Does, it was, and the rumor mill scheduled round the clock shifts to fill in the blanks. It was never sexual! screamed the headlines at the point-of-purchase magazine racks at Fargo's equivalent of Albertsons and Safeway. “We would play the family gigs under the name Betty AND Veronica, sez Lucy Black!But it was too little too late and though the fervor eventually declined, the myths and legends grew.

What? You never heard this? I guess you missed that issue of the--- what do they have in Fargo these days?--- The Forum and the High Plains Reader? It's hard to get news out of Fargo as it is, it being some kind of Minnesota black hole (Minnesota news in, no news out) and was probably even harder back when Betty did Veronica. And with all of the rumors being milled, you hardly know what to believe anyway.

Believe this, though. Not long after Betty and Veronica went separate ways, Lucille Black emerged from the cocoon, if cocoon there ever was, to claim her piece of the musical landscape. I hear a few chuckles out there, some people thinking that a piece of the Fargo landscape is akin to a deed to two inches of Alaska Goldrush Land like they used to put in cereal boxes and I appreciate that (after all, humor does make the world go 'round), but you can stop chuckling. If all Fargo has to offer the world is Betty's (Deb Grothe's, actually) D. E. B. (Deadly Electric Blonde) and Veronica (Lucille Black), that is landscape enough.

Finally starts with an 80s bang reminiscent of music used in a thousand or so teen-oriented movies like Youngblood and Starstruck, Innocent Eyes having that 'roll credits' feel to it, straight ahead rock with Black's voice and, toward the end, the whoa-wha-ooh dubbed over the repeated harmonies of “She used to look at the world with innocent eyes” to fadeout. You can close your eyes and picture any number of cinematic endings, my favorite being the anti-hero driving a hog down the interstate into the sunset, his beautiful young lady friend clutching him around the waist, long flowing hair blowing in the wind. Like I said. Roll credits.

I would have moved Innocent Eyes to the middle or end because needledroppers have a tendency to listen to three or four seconds of the first track and if they don't hear what they want, they quit, and that track I find an anomaly. From there on out we hear the real Lucille Black, from the soft-rocking and light rhythm of Numb with its smooth harmonies in the chorus to the light rocking All I Have to my favorite track, Falling, background vocals laying a velvet carpet over which Black sings in her unadorned and straightforward fashion.

The high points of the CD, in fact, involve the stacked harmonies and hook-ladened choruses. While not in the chorus, the harmonies on Better Person stick out as well, just far enough off the track to really stand out.

This album (or EP--- its tracks number seven) shows a whole lot of promise and I expect a bit more with each subsequent release. I assume there will be more, anyway. Black has a touch with soft rock, but gives us just enough to believe that there is a whole lot more beneath the songs on Finally. While not perfect (what album is, really), it is a portrait of a musician at a point in time and I believe Black's time has just begun. As she grows and learns to expand her topics beyond failed love and strained relationships (which work pretty well here, actually), her world could very well turn oyster.

In the meantime, Fargo can look at Lucille Black like the adopted daughter that she is. After watching the movie, I wondered if there was much there besides blizzards and wood chippers, but that was long before Betty did Veronica. Just the concept makes me chuckle. To hear radio babble about the whole thing, check out Black's MySpace page and click on Betty Does?. It's classic.

Frank O. Gutch Jr.

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