Michelle Lewis

Little Leviathan

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It was simply a matter of time before pop-music quilldriver Michelle Lewis wrote so many good songs she'd have to just put out her own album, and that she did. Little Leviathan sounds as though she enjoyed herself doing it, too, although the travails of her reflective, singing self indicate rougher emotional roads than you'd expect from a potentially garden-variety streetpop star. Replete with shades of Rickie Lee Jones and Joan Osborne, Michelle has a savvy, unapologetic attitude and ultimately talkative -- and sure, essentially melodic -- delivery, as well as an assured acoustic guitar style. Leviathan gently experiments with literature, too, as her lyrics are dense, even obscure with poetry, in evidence on the emotive "Liquid Heart" and the alluring but baffling just-post-teen-lovers' ballad "Loaded." There is a narrative thread throughout the songs, and although the link is not clear, there are recognizable and recurring characters and a well-crafted sense of place, emerging from a kind of urban emotional nexus presumed to be the singing central "character," Michelle herself. The clearest songs are also the best-performed: the emerging sensibility of "Dig Me Out" genuinely gets stronger as it gets louder (not always the case), and "Nowhere and Everywhere" is a good dizzy downtown-New York girlie tune with plenty of guitar camaraderie. Michelle has lots of help on Leviathan whether she needed it or not, produced by Geraldine Fibbers and Soul Coughing's pulse-fingering Steve Fisk, and backed by Lounge Lizards Tony Scherr and Keith Golden. Incalculable influences round out the autobiographical essence of this album, as Michelle's mom, Annette, was a longtime session singer for radio and TV jingles, and her big-band horn player dad Morty Bennett contributed the venerated sax solo on Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side." Little Leviathan validates a young singer/songwriter who has already made her mark by penning hits for Australia's Deni Hines, the Todd Terry Project, Camille and Amy Grant. A solid and memorable debut, if a smidge wordy.

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