Christine Lavin

Shining My Flashlight on the Moon

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Christine Lavin calls this "a mellow collection," which may be a way of saying that there isn't much in the way of uptempo material on it -- whether the songs are humorous or serious, Lavin sticks to ballad-paced fingerpicking; calm, unemotive singing; and few added effects. But if the album isn't likely to set your toes tapping (the piece called "The Polka-Dancing Bus Driver and the 40-Year-Old Mystery" even turns out to be a recitation), it contains Lavin's usual quotient of chuckles and sighs. The Carol Burnett of contemporary folk music, she typically adopts a perky comic persona that makes her occasional sharp jabs (notably in the song "If I Ruled the World") all the more damaging. But she is less effective on the darker material, of which there is a fair amount here, including one song, "As Bad as It Gets," about an injured friend; another, "The Scent of Your Cologne," about a deceased parent; and a couple about her favorite subjects, the difficulties of relationships. Maybe it's that she wants to write about such things without really being willing to dig into them, but her observations, which seem intended to be poignant, tend to come off as only wistful or, worse, sentimental. Actually, the most moving and impressive song on the album is the closer, "Planet X," which is about the planet (if that's what it is) Pluto.

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