Meg Hutchinson grew up in the Massachusetts countryside without a computer or TV set. She started listening to the folk music and singer/songwriter records her parents loved when she was young, and when she was given her grandmother's Martin guitar, her path was set. Her parents were both English teachers, and she's obviously inherited their love of language. She majored in creative writing at Bard College, and after graduation started playing the lively Boston folk circuit, collecting rave reviews and songwriting kudos at the Kerrville Folk Festival, the Rocky Mountain Folk Festival, and Merlefest. She's been touring relentlessly and has built up a strong following with her insightful, deeply personal songs. The music she created for The Living Side is meticulously constructed, and the jazzy pop arrangements she delivers with the help of producer Crit Harmon (Lori McKenna, Mary Gauthier) go down easy. You could call it ambient folk, and that's one of the problems with the set. The songs have a full, lush sound, but after a few tracks, the arrangements start blending into each other. There's no edge to underline her keen insights. Her husky voice is fine as far as it goes, but like the music, it often doesn't go far enough. She's calm and reserved even on "Hard to Change," where she's bemoaning the death of the American dream and complaining about billion dollar bailouts. It would be nice to hear a bit of anger or sarcasm in her voice. Her flat affect works better on songs like "Hopeful Things," where it gets support from Kevin Barry's smooth slide guitar work, or "Being Happy" which sports the album's best, catchiest melody and Hutchinson's warm, double-tracked backing harmonies. The backing vocals also bring some depth to "Full of Light," a tune with a nice, bubbling, rhythm bassline, while a cello adds a bit of dark beauty to "Something Else" the yearning song that closes the record.
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AllMusic Review by j. poet