Uppers & Downers

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Following on the heels of their regionally successful major-label debut, True North, the duo of comely chanteuse Kathy Fisher and her silent instrumental partner, Ron Wasserman, returned in 2002 with this collection of 23 tracks on the smaller Rawfish imprint. The double-disc set's title refers to its organization, wherein all of the up-tempo full-band songs and minimal piano ballads are segregated onto separate discs. As organizational strategies go, it's scarcely a winner: both discs lack much-needed mood shifts. Both have their strong moments, though. On the "Uppers" side, the risible "Oblivious," a smirking rendition of Bert Kaempfert's "L-O-V-E," and the surprisingly bouncy "Dirty Girl" all are worthwhile listens; it's tracks like these that lend Fisher a true sense of individuality, of having a unique voice in the sparse post-Lilith Fair landscape. The "Downers" tracks, at their best, are pure Sarah McLachlan mimicry, with perhaps a touch of Carole King evident in Wasserman's intelligent piano arrangements. The brooding simplicity of "Good Intentions" and "Too Late" reflects Fisher at its highest comfort level, while "How We Met" and "February 1994" hint at the elegant poetry that made "I Will Love You" a massive Internet hit. A misguided and absurdly accurate cover of the Aerosmith chestnut "Dream On" is one of the few true misfires in this collection, which otherwise suffers from an overabundance of content but has enough quality adult alternative songs to warrant a few listens.

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