Love and Murder marks a poignant return for New York singer/songwriter Leslie Mendelson after an eight-year stretch between releases. That span included a Grammy nomination (for engineering) for her sophomore album, Swan Feathers, the loss of her label and management partnerships, and, sadly, the unexpected passing of her friend and producer Joel Dorn. She also made another album, which was never released. Mendelson eventually regrouped with longtime songwriting partner Steve McEwan, and the resulting set of songs takes on themes of loss, affection, and rumination. Produced by Mark Howard (Bob Dylan, Sarah McLachlan), it includes seven original tunes as well as covers of Bob Dylan's "Just Like a Woman," popular mid-20th century country singer Jimmy C. Newman's "Cry, Cry Darlin'," and Roy Orbison's "Blue Bayou," performed here as a spare duet with Bob Weir. It's a playful performance by the two, one of a few on an album that has its share of charm and lightness despite a heavy heart. Another such entry is the closer, "Cry, Cry Darlin'," a lilting ditty in the conditional tense ("That's what I'll do if you should leave me with the blues"). Highlights among the originals include the tender remembrance "Coney Island" ("We had love eating from our hands") and "Love You Tonight," a song that would have been right at home on '70s AM radio alongside James Taylor and Paul Simon. Through it all, Mendelson's warm, unassuming delivery, raspy around the edges, isn't the only quality reminiscent of Carole King, a comparison frequently made for good reason. Her (and presumably McEwan's) melodic tendencies, scene-capturing lyrics, and light-handed arrangements that favor the piano also evoke the icon and should appeal to fans of elegant craft.
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AllMusic Review by Marcy Donelson