Erin McKeown

Manifestra

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AllMusic Review by

Singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Erin McKeown has spent the majority of her career running genres through the shredder, taping them back together and then sending them back through for another haircut. The politically charged Manifestra, which according to its author "describes a statement of purpose and unity, a clear action from a female perspective, a bright hope," begins appropriately with “Politician,” a bluesy, Stax-meets-Sub Pop takedown of public officials who utilize religion in lieu of band aids in the face of a scandal. The propulsive, atmospheric "In God We Trust" mines similar thematic territory, but swaps out the blues with smoky, sub-tropical jazz-pop, while the intoxicating single "Jailer" and the appropriately fiery, lurching title cut fall somewhere in the middle, sounding for all the world like a random spin of the radio dial that lands just left of Suzanne Vega and just right of Los Lobos. Anchored by McKeown's plain yet highly charismatic voice, and featuring guest spots from a small army of friends and contemporaries who include Anais Mitchell, Sean Hayes, David Wax Museum, Ryan Montbleau, and Polly Paulusma (the album closer "Baghdad to the Bayou" was conjured up through texts with political commentator, television host, and author Rachel Maddow), McKeown's seventh studio album is as bold and determined as anything in her repertoire, but it never sacrifices musicality for message, resulting in a taut, compact, and engaging set of 21st century urban folk songs that invites the listener into the fold before unleashing its directive.

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