August 14, 2008

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Greta Gaines, Whiskey Thoughts
Justice Records, July 29

Rock n roll: so easy a former professional snowboarder can do it. Gaines is a surprise, though, a melody-obsessed trooper hell-bent on making some hay out of her career change, still at it after laying a trail of largely unnoticed albums over the years since her 1999 debut LP, itself a not-bad effort born for Bonnie Raitt’s country-pop fan base. Nine years later, her songs are full-lunged, soulful, viciously catchy tough-chick-rockers backed up by a band that sounds like it’s been duking it out in honky-tonks for the last hundred years. Gaines’s voice is most comfortable at the low end, out-Fiona-Appling Fiona Apple when she makes half an effort, and she’s totally on board for these songs, unleashing the soulful, clamorous beast she kept tranquilized in previous efforts. The title track has a devastating hook interwoven with super-smart counterpoint vocals, perhaps too rocked-out for Sheryl Crow fanatics but workable for anyone else. “Hey Evan” is Ricki Lee Jones on steroids, “Say Grace” is “You’re No Good”-era Linda Ronstadt with Amy Winehouse as sensei. Willie Nelson sits in on “Willie’s Waltz.” AEric W. Saeger