Jennifer Goree

Jennifer Goree

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Honestly, indie-label releases by solo folksingers often tend to be a little, well, wet. There have been more than enough shoestring releases by depressingly earnest people who think they're the next Kate Wolf or Phil Ochs to make the entire field suspect. Have no fears with Jennifer Goree's excellent 1996 debut, however, as it's the exception to the rule. Goree, whose rich, smoky voice sounds more than a little like Emmylou Harris (especially when sister Bunny Goree's Dolly Parton-like high lonesome harmonies are blending with it), clearly favors the mysterious folk-rock of Cowboy Junkies and Richard Thompson (whose "Jennie" gets a gender reversal here as "Jamie," a fine recasting of the song that works much better than one might expect). The artful blend of acoustic and electric instruments doesn't overemphasize either, and touches like the funky Hammond organ underpinning the slinky opener "Love Will Abide" show a smart sense of dynamics and arrangement. Goree's band, Appalachian Soul, also brings elements of bluegrass and country to the album, especially when guitarist and co-producer Glenn Cannon breaks out the banjo and mandolin. Besides her excellent voice, Goree is a smart, unsentimental lyricist with a knack for emotional truths and avoidance of simple clich├ęs. The wry but heartfelt "Dissolute Darling" could have come from Kirsty MacColl's pen. Combined with the minor-key melodies permeating this album, there's a tangible sense of wistfulness on Jennifer Goree akin to that which pervades Lucinda Williams' work. Goree is very much her own person, however, and Jennifer Goree is an unexpected delight.

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