Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine…
The Republicans are still in power, picking over the carcasses of John Kerry, Tom Daschle and countless other Democrats while they lick their wounds after inauguration day. In a way, it sounds similar to the thousands of refugees licking their wounds after fleeing war-torn Europe, the Nazis and Vichy France. I know I’ll get into trouble for equating the Republicans with Nazi Germany, but then again, what do I care? If we were to try and remake that film using this analogy, it’d be easy to cast the baddies, but not as such for the good guys. While Victor Laszlo was the freedom fighters’ savior, that role has yet to be determined for today’s liberals. What is for sure is that the roles of Sam the piano player and Ilsa Lund, the beautiful woman who must choose between two loves would have to be combined and played by Ambrosia Parsley, the lead singer of the group Shivaree. And instead of a bar / café / casino with a juke joint feel, we’d have a high class, possibly Canadian due to the political atmosphere, bar with a torchy lounge act.
The group’s latest album’s title and song “New Casablanca” revolve around the classic film, particularly around the song performed by Sam the piano player, “Knock on Wood.” The call and response song asks “Who’s Got Trouble?” and Rick’s patrons shout back, “We’ve Got Trouble!” Singer Parsley (I at first thought that name just has to be made up, as if she’s a Scissor Sister, but in truth it is real) then weaves her affected babyish voice through song after song revealing trouble after trouble.
Who’s Got Trouble? is a little bit alt-country, a little bit twenties folk, and a little bit of alternative singer-songwriting. What the album has in spades is smart and incisive lyrics, interesting styles of music, and social commentary. But while feature after feature and review after review gush about Parsley’s voice, I found it hard to get past. While at times seductive, sweet, and angelic, there are other times when it is too affected and raspy, almost as if she were aping Britney Spears. That being said, I did very much enjoy Who’s Got Trouble?. In the end it will come down to whether or not Parsley’s not necessarily unique, but affected style of singing is or is not your cup of tea.
One standout track however isn’t even theirs, it’s a cover of “The Fat Lady of Limbourg” from Brian Eno’s classic 1974 album Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy. The group turns it into a Portishead-like track with heavy bassline, sound effects, surf guitar, and keyboards that transport us to the dark alleys of an espionage classic. And while the rest of the album’s songs might not be able to save us from four years of troubles, it is at least a worthy diversion from them.
Cowboy Junkies- Pale Sun, Crescent Moon