Arum Rae

Too Young to Sing the Blues

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If Rickie Lee Jones had continued to explore the distinctive, compelling, and jazzy folk, country, and blues of her superb debut, she might sound like Arum Rae. Instead, Jones followed a different muse, leaving the field open for well, nobody really, until Rae. Her supple, girlish voice slides around this varied album of early Dylan-ish rocking ("Lookin' for Love"), sparse, jazzy folk ("Human"), and cabaret country blues ("I Don't Have a Heart"). The instrumentation is stripped down but never sounds thin. But it's Rae's dynamic voice, a sexy concoction of Billie Holiday, Neko Case, and Jones, that elevates everything on this diverse set of originals. She's consistently convincing, reeling through this somewhat noir-ish Americana landscape with a combination of hurt, pride, anger, and sass. Occasionally introspective, especially on the stark, dreamy acoustic "Didn't I," Rae never falls into self-pity on these melodic, melancholy, but not morose songs. Instead, through a first-person narrative, she exposes herself with few inhibitions. She is an irate victim unafraid to boast about carving her name on the face of the ex she just killed on "Solitude Lane." On "60 Dollars," Rae takes the role of a small-town waitress getting hoodwinked by a shyster who promises to make her a movie star. She flirts with her death on the insistent yet mournful blues of "Don't Want to be Buried When I'm Dead," and closes with the sardonic "Nobody But Me," where she's the pliant female with a wicked grin of retribution behind the subservient smile. As the disc unwinds, the listener becomes a confident to Rae, a conflicted, multi-faced character that by the last tune has won you over with her pliant vocals and edgy songwriting talents as well as the no-frills attitude behind these hypnotic songs. As she says in the title track, she's a young blood swimming in an old soul.

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