Thalia Zedek

Trust Not Those in Whom Without Some Touch Of Madness

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Given her powerful delivery and flair for sullied drama, Thalia Zedek's next solo project could've easily been an album of covers. Been Here and Gone and You're a Big Girl Now, after all, had included interpretations of work by Leonard Cohen, Dylan, and the Velvet Underground -- why not put out an album of such explorations? Tracing the contours between Jacques Brel and James Chance, say. Alas, it wasn't to be. Maybe that recording is still in the cards, but in the meantime we have the sweeping bruised grace of Trust Not Those in Whom Without Some Touch of Madness, and it's a keeper. Like Richard Buckner, Zedek holds the amazing capacity to make the saddest stuff compelling, even heartening. Madness begins at a gently threatening Velvets' pace, Zedek's guitar, skeletal as the viola of cohort David Michael Curry (Willard Grant Conspiracy), roots around in corners. She's obviously been hurt -- the song's a warning to a departing lover -- but its arrangement lurches and leaps like a thunderstorm fighting with shafts of sunlight. "Ship" refuses to be a straight-up dirge, see, and that makes its sentiment all the more gripping. Throughout this record as it's been since the old days, Zedek never fails to put her very soul into each syllable, and her commitment is matched by the instrumentation. In addition to Curry's viola and cello, Daniel Coughlin provides spare percussion, and there's piano from Mel Lederman here and there. There's even a slicing, brain-swelling feedback storm to end the album, harking to Zedek's days in Come. That's the only one, though; most of the time this Madness speaks with more subtlety, or lets the vocal sketch the pain while the instruments find the heart. They heighten the melancholic urgency of "Evil Hand," burrow "Brother"'s hard luck into a dark and bewildered country-blues place, and make "Island Song" tango with the twisting poetics of its own psyche. ("The past, it will burn off, through the sand...") Trust Not Those in Whom Without Some Touch of Madness might not offer answers for those lost or scarred. But the warmth between its darkest heartbeats is worth divining.

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