Christine Ohlman

Strip

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Husky voiced tough gals seldom get any more fiery than Christine Ohlman. Like a female Bruce Springsteen or Southside Johnny, she uses her encyclopedic knowledge of soul, blues,and swaggering leader of the pack '60s girl group pop to texture her mini-dramas that exude a distinct urban sensibility. It's no coincidence that she covers Dion, one of N.Y.C's most streetwise singers, in "Daddy, Rollin' in Your Arms," and turns it into a percussive epic overflowing with intense sexual tension. This is sturdy, rocking soul that comes from the heart with Ohlman's originals that dominate the album,shimmering in a backstreet glaze of moody, drizzle-drenched shadows. It's the real darkness on the edge of town as the beehive queen tells her man to strip on the title cut and feels the emptiness when he's not there in "Love and Tenderness." She's a "soldier of love out on the battlefield" on "Jungle Twist," slithering her Amazon warrior wiles over the driving beat and pounding rhythms of her Rebel Montez three-piece. Every tune resonates but the album clicks best as a whole, since each performance enhances and amplifies the others. Vocally she's got the drive of Springsteen with the power of Ronnie Spector and even a touch of Melissa Etheridge's in-your-face rasp that makes anything she lays her pipes on worth hearing. A cover of the Brit Invasion classic "I Can Only Give You Everything" -- sung as a duet with a very Iggy Pop sounding Joe Hurley -- further solidifies Ohlman's roots and the no BS philosophy that is infused, even subtly, in every song on this powerful set. The intensity never lets up until the closing, mostly acoustic ballad "Tough and Tender," a perfect metaphor for Ohlman's own personality.

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