Jane Siberry


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Jane Siberry has always had a very individual way of looking at music, and when she turns her gaze below the 49th parallel to the music of America, things get interesting. She brings her usual floating quality to a gospel tune like "Jacob's Ladder," and finds romance rather than tragedy in "Streets of Laredo." "False False Fly," whose origins are in British folk, gets a hip-hop beat, but for the most part, her takes are languid, letting the music and lyrics breathe, and finding new facets in the surrounding air. Pretty much without exception, the pieces are familiar, which lands her in dangerous territory -- such reinterpretation is messing with things people love. But for the first two-thirds of the record, it works like magic. For the last three tracks, however, the spell seems to fail. "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," "Ol' Man River," and a medley of "O Shenandoah" and "Sail Away" just don't have the gravity -- perhaps because two of them are better suited to the resonating depth of the male voice. Still, Siberry makes art out of history for most of the album, and a record like this truly does confirm that she's a real artist, with a unique take on the world, able to put everything through her own particular prism. So while it's not the most successful contemporary take on American roots music, it's still satisfying, and more than repays the time invested.

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