Pieta Brown

In the Cool

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There's more than a hint of Lucinda Williams' down-at-the-heels grittiness to Pieta Brown's determinedly greasy roots rock. And though the press materials seem designed to make you feel guilty for thinking it (she grew up without heat or indoor plumbing! In Iowa, and then in Alabama! She's for real!), there also seems to be an element of calculation at work in her sound. Take "4th of July," for example -- there's a melody in there, and you can bet she's fully capable of singing it, but she doesn't sound interested. Instead, she slips down the sides of the notes like beer foam sliding down the outside of a glass. It's not a bad effect, but it does come across as an effect; it sounds like she's slouching, and every once in a while you want to tell her to sit up straight. "In the Cool" is a completely affecting lover's plea, and "Precious Game" rocks out nicely in an understated but sturdy way, but "This Old Dress" is based on a roots-music cliché that couldn't be more tired. Again, you feel guilty pointing it out (her mama sewed that dress, for crying out loud), but still. Producer Bo Ramsey contributes his patented falling-down guitar throughout, and there are harmony vocals from Iris DeMent, which never hurts.

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