The Slow Bang

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In the singer/songwriter world, house concerts can be an intriguing alternative to club performances. Typically, the singer/songwriter (who either plays unaccompanied or has only one or two people accompanying him/her) will perform for a small audience in someone's living room -- and even though house concerts can be mildly profitable if enough of a cover is charged and enough people show up, they still tend to have a relaxed friends-getting-together-with-friends vibe. That type of vibe is very much at work on The Slow Bang. This 32-minute CD isn't a recording of a house concert, but it was recorded in someone's home in 2005 and 2006: the Athens, GA home of Mathew Houck, best known for his contributions to the band Phosphorescent. Singer/songwriter Madeline Adams is on lead vocals, acoustic guitar, and piano, while Houck (her only accompaniment) contributes backing vocals and additional guitar -- and the performing-at-home approach works appealingly well on "The Demise of Madame Butterfly," "1982," "Simple Words," and other Adams originals. These acoustic folk-rock performances have a loose, informal quality, which is not to say that Adams' singing isn't expressive; Adams sounds like she is getting a lot of enjoyment out of performing in the home of Houck, who recorded and produced this album. Unfortunately, there is an awkward moment on "Fish in the Sea" when Adams tries to inject a bit of irony and sings, in hip-hop fashion, that "bitches be frontin'," but because she is so firmly rooted in an introspective Joni Mitchell/Natalie Merchant/Sarah McLachlan/Janis Ian type of aesthetic, that attempt at irony doesn't work for her. But most of Adams' writing on The Slow Bang is solid, and the album's intimate acoustic environment is a definite plus.

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