Full Flower

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Mikhal's debut album, Full Flower, shows off the talents of an accomplished singer/songwriter. The singer's voice has something of the reedy timbre of Buffy Sainte-Marie, though she relies less on vibrato than Sainte-Marie does. A mandolin, played by either Bob Green or Gary Oleyar, is usually at the center of the folk-rock arrangements, which occasionally turn funky enough in their spare way to suggest that the backup musicians could play the entire Police songbook at the drop of a hat. But the focus of attention is the singer, who explores the difficulties of romance in different contexts, celebrates music, and looks forward. "Ricky-O" finds her attempting to resist the temptations of a married man: "Your animal grace persuades/My cautious ways," she confesses, but proclaims, "I wouldn't call if your number was burned into my hand!" On "Gather 'Round Girls," she discusses the common experience that a woman tends to let her female friendships go while in a successful relationship with a man, but returns to them when the affair turns rocky. ("I say, 'It's time to strengthen female ties.'/You say you know what that means/It means a man has let me down again/And I need to mend some broken dreams.") The catchy "Real Life" and "Bridges and Monoliths" delineate the struggle of urban life and mature challenges, while "Chere Colette," with its Cajun flavor, salutes music and dance. Full Flower is a modest, focused effort, but it seems to have a life of talent and preparation behind it, making it sound more like a mid-career collection than a first release.

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