Ever since Edie Brickell got up on-stage one night with a Texas band called New Bohemians in the mid-'80s, her musical career has been a series of happy accidents. So, it should be no surprise that her solo work has been only occasional. Her split from New Bohemians after 1990's Ghost of a Dog was followed by her 1992 marriage to Paul Simon, with whom she started a family. She returned in 1994 with her solo debut, Picture Perfect Morning, and 2002's Ultimate Collection compilation included many unreleased tracks, indicating that there had been some abortive attempts to make music since. Volcano, however, is her first full-length effort in nine years, and with an output like that, she must be considered only a part-time recording artist. But her work has been quite consistent all along. It is both charming and elusive, engaging and yet weightless. Here, using a basic band usually consisting of producer Charlie Sexton on guitar and other instruments, Carter Albrecht on keyboards, Pino Palladino on bass, and Steve Gadd on drums, she creates lilting folk-rock tracks, over which she sings in her breathy voice fragmentary lyrics touching on love and memory. Romantic devotion mixes with images of a rural past in a good-natured tone, but as the pronouns mix "I," "you," "he," and "she," the meanings rarely come clear to the listener. There are exceptions: "Take a Walk" finds the singer encouraging someone to relax; "What Would You Do," the concluding track, is a story-song about a runaway with a beginning, middle, and end. But most often, Brickell hangs her songs on repeated phrases, relying on her appealing voice and the sprung rhythms set up by the acoustic instruments to carry her through. This is not music made by a musician bent on being understood by a mass of listeners, but rather one setting her internal musings to music and getting a major label hoping for commercial lightning to strike again to put it out. Her patient fan base will be pleased, but others probably won't even know she has returned.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann