Heather Shayne Blakeslee,
Bones
(Little Red, 2001)

Bones is the debut album for singer-songwriter Heather Shayne Blakeslee. It's hard to slot her into any particular category, for her style is a blend of folk and pop, a hint of country and a dash of blues.

Her voice is low pitched and as smooth and smoky as good molasses. She accompanies herself on guitar with support from Jimi Zhivago (dobro, bass, piano, organ, guitar and slide guitars), Giovanni Fusco (percussion), Barry Kornhauser (bass, mandola), Marjorie Fein (classical guitar) and Robin Burdelis (percussion). The accompaniment is well integrated into the songs so that it highlights but does not overshadow the poetry of the lyrics.

Poetry is the best word to describe the lyrics, intense and evocative, appealing sharply to the senses. Some of the songs tell stories, such as "The Ballad of Anna Mae," "No Rain" and "Calling," while others are reflective or confessional or stream of consciousness, such as "Opiates and Envy," "Lazarus" and "44 Summers." The songs are full of striking images, such as "They're selling opiates and envy in the market of my town" and "So she took her skin and she took her bones, and she stretched her skin over the country as she roamed," from "Sequoia," or "I build and break these futures down, I take and sing these bones I've found" from the title track, "Bones," which closes the CD.

Initially, the songs sound somewhat similar; it is only after repeated listening that the subtleties come through, such as the hint of jazz underlying "City Lullaby." The CD may be a touch over-subtle in this regard -- a bit more variety would be nice. In addition, Blakeslee's occasionally run the risk of being deliberately obscure.

These are relatively minor considerations, however, in light of Blakeslee's obvious talent. She's definitely an artist to watch, if Bones is any indication -- and I believe it is.

[ by Donna Scanlon ]
Rambles: 19 January 2002