Cindy Lee Berryhill

Straight Outta Marysville

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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming

1994's Garage Orchestra is Cindy Lee Berryhill's most ambitious and satisfying album to date, but touring with the massive ensemble she used to record it was wildly impractical. For the purposes of playing out, Berryhill assembled a compact version of the Garage Orchestra featuring three of her collaborators from the album: Chris Davies on bass, guitar, and mandolin, Renata Bratt on cello, Randy Hoffman on assorted percussion instruments, and Berryhill on guitar and harmonica. While Berryhill was eager to use the full orchestra again on her next album, a variety of circumstances led to her pushing up the recording date, and she instead went into the studio with the musicians from her touring unit. As a consequence, 1996's Straight Outta Marysville is a far more intimate listening experience, and while Hoffman and Bratt certainly give this a bit of the flavor of the Garage Orchestra sessions, it's spare and compact, where her previous album had been full of details and dynamics. That said, these players were simpatico with Berryhill before and they're no less so here, and even though this music is a long, long way from jazz, the comfortable interplay and instinctual give and take between the players owe more to that than the grand chamber pop of the Orchestra. The arrangements and performances here are decidedly different than on her previous release, yet Berryhill's songwriting, witty and honest and full of canny observations about the world around her and the people who live there, show that the lessons she learned between 1989's Naked Movie Star and Garage Orchestra stuck. Between the arrogant track stars in "High Jump," the gender-fluid firebrand of "Diana," and the sunny surrealism of "Elvis from Marysville," this album finds Berryhill writing near the top of her game, and the emotive unpredictability of her vocals is better-controlled than in her early days. Straight Outta Marysville isn't quite the masterpiece that Garage Orchestra was, but it certainly confirms that the growth and vision that made that album great is still very much in play.

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