Naked Blue

Five by Five

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Five by Five Review

by William Ruhlmann

Behind the provocative name, Naked Blue is the duo of singer Jennifer Smith and her husband Scott Smith, who plays multiple instruments in addition to serving as engineer and producer of their fifth album, Five by Five. The "naked" part may refer to the lyrical persona Jennifer Smith adopts, a nakedly confessional self quick to admit doubts and uncertainties, and the "blue" to the state of that character's mood much of the time. Scott Smith's musical arrangements employ familiar folk-rock and bluegrass structures to create a pleasant, catchy backup for his wife's singing, which recalls the breathy, rounded tones of Shawn Colvin and Edie Brickell. In that sense, the music is a foil for the message. In a series of first-person narratives (only "Fear of Flight," penned by backup guitarist Todd Wright, is in the third person), the singer explores what must be considered a wistful, flakey sensibility. In "Miami," she phones a significant other whom she has abandoned up north in the snow to escape to sunny Florida. "Sorry about the mess," she says, "I kinda left in a hurry," but her real purpose is not to apologize. Instead, she wants to castigate her partner for such sins as "Reading Proust [does she mispronounce the name deliberately?] and Fortune Magazine," while she prefers "laughing and dancing and sexy summertime dreams." In "What Would You Say?," the singer rehearses the familiar criticism that her companion doesn't talk enough, but then acknowledges that, if he did, "that would change everything," and, anyway, as the song title asks, what would he say? The singer's passive-aggressive stance is targeted at someone other than her spouse in "Christmas," but she is no more sympathetic, here berating a family member for having grown distant over the years. She does not hesitate to turn self-critical ("Sometimes I just hate myself," she sings in "Shame, Shame, Shame"), but you can't help thinking that, if these songs accurately describe a person, that person must not be easy to live with. That said, the enclosed video for "When the Sun Shines Here," from Naked Blue's previous album, Shaving Luck, shows an apparently happy family cavorting on the beach and at an amusement park.

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