Thea Gilmore

Avalanche

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With her deep burnished voice somewhere between Alison Moyet, Sandy Denny, Annie Lennox and Beth Orton, British thrush Gilmore moves a bit closer to the mainstream on her fifth album. Producer Nigel Stonier (who also plays guitar throughout) buffs up the sound but keeps Gilmore's folk-pop intact. The songs are some of her best with "Juliet (Keep that in Mind)" and the Dire Straits flavored "Mainstream" just a few standouts on an album that keeps getting better the more you hear it. Just the hint of loops on a few tracks, in particular the opening "Rags and Bones," also adds to the atmosphere without noticeably polishing up the sound. The lovely "God Knows" is spiritually based but even with its anthemic chorus never sounds preachy. And "Pirate Moon" is the perfect combination of haunting vocals with poignant lyrics. Gilmore never oversings, and even though continually in the spotlight, she exudes a graceful subtlety that other folk-rockers would do well to follow. There are hints of Highway 61 era Dylan in the jaunty "Heads Will Roll" but this is thoughtful, extremely well written, immaculately produced and exquisitely sung contemporary folk with a slight rock edge that never seems pretentious. Although it missed the Lilith train by a few years, it's the album that should put her over the top in America.

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