Mary Lou Lord

Martian Saints [EP]

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Mary Lou Lord kicks off her second EP the same way she did the first -- with a plugged-in, full-band reading of a song by the Bevis Frond's Nick Saloman, who guests on guitar. Yet there are subtle differences in her approach this time out -- the intimacy of Mary Lou Lord seemed more personal, whereas Martian Saints is more about Lord's desire to simply spotlight some of her favorite songwriters. The smaller size of Martian Saints (five songs instead of eight) gives Lord less of a chance to develop a mood, but her impeccable taste in song selection comes through loud and clear. Just as impressive is her surprising range as an interpreter -- she's equally at home with the playfulness of Saloman's title track and Pete Droge's "Sunspot Stopwatch" as she is on Elliott Smith's delicate "I Figured You Out" and Peter Laughner's gritty, urban Dylanesque epic "Cinderella Backstreet." And while Lord is not the most prolific songwriter herself, it says a lot about her abilities when her own "Salem '76" stands out as perhaps the best track on the EP, its sweet melody and clever turns of phrase masking themes of bitterness and betrayal. Martian Saints isn't as unified as its predecessor -- these songs don't come off as different sides of her own personality in quite the same way -- but if anything ties it all together, it's her infectious, fannish enthusiasm for the material, which is part of the reason she can do justice to such a wide range of songwriters.

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