Judy Henske

She Sang California

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At times, this isn't an easy record to listen to, but it is rewarding many times over. "Big Fat Man," the opening track on She Sang California, is bound to elicit smiles from the listener -- and it's not even the funniest track on the album. But from the more obviously humorous moments to the slow blues of "Easy Rider," Judy Henske transforms into a kind of distaff Howlin' Wolf, and then she's a saloon singer doing an irony-laced rendition of Irving Berlin's "Ace in the Hole." Henske walks and sings through several layers of the human psyche, neatly poeticizing and encapsulating the nature of alcohol dependency ("Cocktail Hour") and those who feed off of it ("Lowlife") -- and between them seems to have the makings of a musical version of The Iceman Cometh -- and telling of the relationship with her pet and companion ("Song About My Dog"), which is so beguilingly simple and alluring that it would make a perfect single if they still issued singles and there were any radio stations that might ever play it. And "Tell Old Bill" is a traditional song sung and played (by Henske on banjo and Graham Nash on harmonica) in an earthy, honest way, unaffected and unpretentious, that Henske ought to have been doing when she was with the Whiskeyhill Singers -- if one didn't know the reason, here would be the answer as to what Dave Guard saw and heard when he brought her into the group. The entire album is a sort of Crosby & Nash alumnus reunion, between the presence of Henske's husband, Craig Doerge, at the piano, and Lee Sklar, Russ Kunkel, Norton Buffalo, et al.

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