Janis Ian

Billie's Bones

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AllMusic Review by

Decades after their initial burst on the pop scene certain serious artists conjure up special recordings deserving of extra attention. A Jackie DeShannon will deliver something stunning like her wonderful You Know Me disc while Ian Hunter strikes hard with his powerful Rant. Janis Ian takes a more restrained approach, but the result is just as masterful on Billie's Bones, a collection of 13 songs recorded over three days in Nashville at Sound Emporium from June 9-11, 2003. Dolly Parton adds a complementary vocal to "My Tennessee Hills" as Janis takes the listener all over the world -- the beautiful "Paris in Your Eyes" preceding the instrumental "Marching on Glasgow," the poet taking the journey from the Southern states to Amsterdam as well. This is not a "folk" album, the always creative Janis Ian finding different melodies on her guitar giving a distinct flavor to each tune and the bevy of thoughtful lyrics. The title track is inspired by a previous work the artist published in her 1968 book Who Really Cares, Poems by Janis Ian. The lyrics to it open up the 14-page booklet while the original poem closes out the insert. "Billie is my idol, I wander through the desert of her later years," she writes in the earlier version concluding with "Tell them I am ash...and I have no tongue." The song has another perspective for the story: "All these years and all I've learned is just how brilliantly I fail." There is no failure here on this successful light rock collection displaying all sorts of musical elements -- the touch of country in "My Tennessee Hills," a jazz feel on "Matthew," the soft introspection of "Amsterdam." As the great Jimmy Miller put the Blind Faith album together in three days after the supergroup tried for months to record, Ian takes her paint brush and in three days creates an album that contains multiple ideas that entertain as they unravel in a unique and impressive fashion. It is a beautiful and fulfilling disc from her vast repertoire.

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