Po' Girl

Po' Girl

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One of 2003's most self-assured debuts, this album unites a pair of talented young Canadians, Allison Russell and Trish Klein, the latter a veteran of the alternative folk trio the Be Good Tanyas. Their richly textured music conveys a late-night, jazzy, improvisational feeling, thanks partly to Russell's wonderfully dreamy clarinet flourishes, the understated production, and soulful vocals that eschew perfect harmonies in favor of loose-knit, spontaneous-sounding interplay. Don't expect any whoops, hollers, or screeching guitars, though: Po' Girl is about as mellow as Cowboy Junkies' Trinity Session and Hot Tuna's debut, which is to say very mellow. On paper, moreover, their lyrics sound as depressed as they are laid-back: titles include "Bad Luck Day Baby," "Bleak St.," "Malaise Days," and "Cold Hungry Blues." But like much good blues, the music here manages to boost listeners' spirits even as it recalls hard times.

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