BY MIKE SHANLEY
Rebecca Pronsky could probably sing the phone book and bring out subtle nuances in the listings with her penetrating voice. Her guitar-slinging husband Rich Bennett would throw in some rhythmic leads to bolster them too. The two of them, and a few friends, have been making beautiful music together on three albums (plus a few EPs and live disc) by using the best qualities of pure country and singer-songwriter styles.
For Only Daughter Pronsky admittedly dialed down the twang in favor of more straight-up, gentler singer-songwriter delivery. The guitars still ring with that bright, trebly echo, but Pronsky’s inspiration this time came from the Innocence Mission and Patty Larkin. The results sound charming as usual, but some of the trimmings that made earlier albums like Viewmaster and Departures and Arrivals bold are a little more understated this time around. The lead guitar and churchy organ in “Honesty” don’t grab you but slowly make themselves known, right about the time you realize that Pronsky finishes the song abruptly. (She’s always been good for unique endings.) Lyrically, she presents a series of characters that don’t fully reveal themselves, but come off as intriguing due to what information they do offer. “Rise Up,” despite following the title with “…in the land of the free,” sounds like less of a flag-waving anthem and more like an ode to either revolution or revenge. Likewise, a cover of Sun Kil Moon’s “Glenn Tipton” offers a surprising third verse, especially in Pronsky’s hands, since her sweet voice moves from innocent reflections on old movies to a recollection of murder, which still sounds believable. When the music gets a little harder in a song like “The Garden,” she steps up right along with it. “Please Forget Me,” in contrast, has a bright, cabaret-style piano foundation, complete with a whistling chorus, making it sound like it could have been written for Nellie McKay.
Only Daughter has a streamlined pop sense to it, with 10 songs in 30 minutes. There are tracks that use that time to simply create an atmosphere rather than fully catching fire, but it still presents Pronsky as an engaging performer.
DOWNLOAD: “The Garden,” “Glenn Tipton.”