Folksinger and songwriter Christine Lavin's 17th release (and third for Appleseed Records) is very much a New York album, not so much as a stated theme, but the feel of the city and the after effects of 9/11 seem to drift in and out of the background of these songs like a half-remembered dream. Lavin hasn't by any means abandoned her good humor and wry, gently sarcastic view of the little oddities of contemporary life, or the murky, ambivalent ins and outs of relationships in the 21st century, but she has always been a New Yorker, and it shows here. She also has a political agenda, which is in full display on Folkzinger, particularly on the heat-seeking "The Peter Principle at Work" (written with songwriting veteran Ervin Drake), which sharply damns the presidency of George W. Bush, and is one of the most striking songs on the album. The charming "Winter in Manhattan," which is presented both in a version with Lavin singing and in an a cappella version by the Accidentals, is a gem in miniature, managing to make a Big Apple winter seem worth traveling to see. Mixed in are songs about safe sex ("Bad Girl Dreams"), e-mail subscriptions ("Chicken Soup"), and soothing covers of Donovan's "Happiness Runs" (complete with a spoken interlude about meeting Donovan on a plane), and the Beatles' "All My Lovin'." Gentle and wry, but with plenty of her trademark zing, Folkzinger will be received with enthusiasm by Lavin's many fans.
by Steve Leggett