BY MARY LEARY
With idiosyncratic vocal phrasing recalling those of Eliza Gilkyson, Karen Dalton, and the McGarrigle Sisters, a basket of intriguing material, and lots of innate creativity, Linda Draper’s new album is delightful. Her honed-down, creative approach to folk rock delivers the arcane surprise of first smelling pure patchouli, or wandering through a bohemian-pocked crafts fair: Wow, life really is full of possibilities.
While Draper may be new to me, she’s been around for nearly 15 years, sharing tour bills with Regina Spektor and Soul Coughing’s Mike Doughty, and making albums with the aid and abetment of Kramer. Her clear leaning toward genuine and palatable sounds of several stripes may help account for the subtly surprising vibrance of Edgewise, which falls neatly in the folk-rock niche without ever navigating by rote.
Draper’s delicately steered soprano might fall past our ears if she didn’t write songs with instinctual changes that are interesting enough to rivet folkies and folk rockers who’ve heard some of the best. On “Take It From Me,” she and a couple of back-up chirpers skate over an infectious ballad so unassuming that if we aren’t going to store it next to songs by one of Draper’s stated influences, Nick Drake; a new category may be required. Edgewise’s casually meticulous mix does nothing to muddy or over-decorate her singing. It’s particularly alluring during the tightrope-balancing, half-spoken bridge of “Sleepwalkers,” throughout the infectious; country-flecked “Right On Time,” within the challenging phrasing of the traditional British folk-influenced “Hollow,” and when it tangoes with the effervescently crisp rock of the title track.
While Draper’s song craft and audio sensibilities already plant her in the classic, Caffe Lena echelon of charismatic folk and folkish sustenance, her lyrics clinch the placement. She rarely wallows in the same-old expressions, or in predictably presenting anything in the same-old family, whether asserting, “Baby, isn’t misery a bore?” on the title track, opining, “even the purest of angels would crash and burn in a place like this” on “Sleepwalkers,” or noting that people have been “talking about the end of the world since the beginning of time” in “Shadow of a Coal Mine.”
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