People Behave Like Ballads

Rebecca Martin

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People Behave Like Ballads Review

by Aaron Latham

For Rebecca Martin, the comparisons to Norah Jones will be inevitable when critical ears listen to "Here the Same but Different" from Martin's People Behave Like Ballads. The song has the same breezy folk-pop appeal of Jones' hit "Don't Know Why" and Martin's delivery of the song is just as relaxed and carefree. But the comparison is somewhat unfair as Martin debuted her jazzy blend of folk-pop in 1999 on Thoroughfare, three years before Jones's breakthrough. She also worked with Jesse Harris (writer of "Don't Know Why") in the group Once Blue prior to his Grammy-winning work with Jones. In reality, people should be comparing Jones to Martin, but all in music is not fair. However, the folks who have already discovered Martin will be eager to spread the news that her third solo disc successfully refines her style and showcases her talent as a songwriter. People Behave Like Ballads is the appropriate title for Martin's collection as she fills the disc with unhurried songs about people dealing with relationships and their own place in the world. In the beautiful "Lead Us," relationship roles are reversed as the stronger of the two recognizes they have "got a handicap" and calls to their partner to "take the reigns," while ghosts from doomed romances begin to haunt a prospective relationship in "I'd Like to Think It's Coming." These personal explorations are often complex but the lightness in which the music is presented makes them seem simpler than they are. Martin's music leans toward folk but is shaded by jazz influences and a '70s singer/songwriter style, much like the mid-career recordings of Joni Mitchell. In fact, the influence of Mitchell can be heard within "East Andover" and "Lonesome Town" as the tracks sound like quality leftovers from Mitchell's Hejira. These two songs along with the barely up-tempo tracks "Old Familiar Song" and "I'm Not Afraid" provide the best block of music on the disc. But with all of the songs kept at a laid-back pace, at 16 tracks the disc is a little lengthy and the final songs lose identity and begin to blend into each other. Nonetheless, People Behave Like Ballads is an excellent step forward and perhaps the people who lifted Norah Jones to success will discover Rebecca Martin and give her the proper exposure she deserves.

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