Though the sudden embrace of the trappings of goth culture via Anne Rice was a bit odd, given Napolitano's long-standing fascination with both Catholic and Mexican imagery (and the elements of sex and death prevalent in both) it wasn't too strange. Her songwriting and singing focus remains much more roots-oriented, as the opening strut/stroll of "Bloodletting (The Vampire Song)" makes clear. Not that she and the band can't kick out the jams as well -- immediately following that is "The Sky Is a Poisonous Garden," a punk-speed thrash with deliciously decadent imagery to boot. The most well known song was "Joey," which actually got some top 40 airplay; while it has a certain catchiness to it, ultimately it comes off as a less successful Heart song from the same era, which is saying something. Far more successful is nearly everything else on the album, from the dark chime of "Caroline," addressing a departed friend, to the soothing "Lullabye," which far from being a mere kiddie tune is a great love song with some fantastic guitar from Mankey. R.E.M.'s Peter Buck adds mandolin to "Darkening of the Light," which adds to the song's mysterious, haunting edge, while "I Don't Need a Hero" is barely there, the softest of music accompanying Napolitano's lyric. Her singing throughout Bloodletting is passionate and catchy, with a deep throaty ache on many cuts. Everything wraps up with a version of Andy Prieboy's "Tomorrow, Wendy." Having done a duet with him on his own recording of the song, she takes full lead here, delivering a bravura performance of the bitter, heartbreaking lyric.
AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett