Sally Barris

Little Voice

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Yes, she does have somewhat of a "little voice," as the title infers, but Sally Barris does plenty with it. Her trilling vocals are reminiscent of Kelly Willis, Dolly Parton, and Emmylou Harris, not bad company. But it's Barris' songs bolstered by Colin Linden's sympathetic production and playing (he adds subtle slide and electric guitar lines) that makes this an under-the-radar keeper for folkies. Like Willis, Barris splits the difference between country, pop and folk and these songs, all written or co-composed by the singer, are as sweet and supple as her lovely voice. Four tunes are co-written by Jessi Alexander who also adds background vocals and released her own album a few years after these sessions. The material creeps up on the listener slowly. It takes a few spins for the tunes to reveal their charms, but Barris' trilling voice elevates everything and when the choruses do kick in, it's clear the singer is an undiscovered talent. For his part, Linden frames the predominantly acoustic music with dabs of mandolin, violin, keyboards, and subtle percussion. It's his sense of restraint that keeps the focus on the singer and her own guitar while bringing hints of color to the songs. As stated in the opening cut, Barris wants to be "The Song You Know by Heart," and by the final track, that's a very likely result. Perhaps a few more upbeat tracks might have helped the album's final third, which stays stuck in ballad mode, but there is more than enough proof here that Barris is a striking singer/songwriter who will hopefully continue to record music as passionate and beautifully crafted as this.

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