Sara Hickman

The Motherlode

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A glance at the photo on Sara Hickman's The Motherlode hints at the ambition of the double album within: an explicit photo from the Kama Sutra is fronted by an ironing board (on fire) and a basket of clothes. These items form the themes of her albums, one about the heartache of domestic violence and drudgery, the other about the joys of sex and love. Hickman covers these 20 songs in a pleasant, contemporary folk style, relying on a lovely acoustic-based soundscape and her airy vocals. One conceptual problem with the first disc, however, is the fact that even while Hickman is singing about women being slaves to their husbands for the rest of their lives on the traditional "Wagoner's Lad," or complaining about life on a jagged edge on "Living in Quiet Desperation," it all sounds, musically, rather pleasant. Desperation, it seems, should sound desperate. This is the same problem Sarah McLachlan has occasionally had, offering heart-rending songs that make one want to happily singalong. This lack of pathos doesn't mean the music is a failure, only that it misses its intended mark. It also means that the second, happier disc, does a better job integrating music and lyrics. The "Birdhouse" reminds one of Joni Mitchell at her most expansive in the mid-'70s, with a thick bass underpinning this lovely song. The arrangements, as with the horns on "Two Days Today," add considerably to the joyful mood. For Hickman aficionados, lovers of women's music, and political folkies, The Motherlode, with nearly an hour-and-a-half of music, will be a real treat.

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