Garrison Starr,
The Sound of You & Me
(Vanguard, 2006)

Garrison Starr sounds like a grittier version of her contemporary and label-mate Mindy Smith. Born and raised in Mississippi, she retains enough of her southern drawl to lend a rootsy feel to her sharp, clear vocal performance. The overall style on The Sound of You & Me is soul-searching, adult-oriented, encompassing nuances of rock, pop, folk and country. This is Starr's second album for Vanguard, and her fourth career outing, since her debut album, 1997's Eighteen Over Me.

The Sound of You & Me charts Starr's passage through romantic liaisons and relationships -- discovering new loves, trying to mend old ones and walking away from love turned bad. "Sing It Like a Victim" starts out with an awkward, clunky rhythm that marries well with the acerbic lyrics that relate the story of coping following the end of a relationship: "light a candle in the dark / and cling on to addiction." This theme is pursued further in "Big Enough," a frank examination of how things once so good, turned so bad: "from everything to nothing / did you get what you wanted?"

"Cigarettes & Spearmint" tells beautifully of a rediscovered closeness and intimacy -- "now you're all over me and it feels just like a waste / you're all over me, but I want you this way" -- delightfully sensual and almost erotic, without plumbing the depths of lewdness. The lyrics have a tantalising ambiguity that leaves you wondering whether the intimacy that Starr sings about is with a new lover, or whether it may well be an intimacy she finds alone: "I can't keep the words out of my mouth / you breathe them in, I sing them out."

The closing track, "We Were Just Boys & Girls," finds Starr's emotions almost at breaking point, and her weary, fractured vocals offer the perfect vehicle for such sentiments. Seemingly recalling more innocent times, Starr laments the complications that come with adult life: "before we were stained / we were just boys and girls."

Her biography makes a lot of noise about the fact that The Sound of You & Me is Garrison Starr baring her soul and pouring out her emotions. This is undoubtedly true, so it's a pity the lyrics aren't reproduced in the sleeve-notes to aid further scrutiny of these heart-on-sleeve moments -- though the illustrations on the CD booklet themselves are delightful, and the lyrics are indeed available from Starr's website. The Sound of You & Me is a charmingly introspective collection from a maturing writer who isn't afraid to mine the depths of her most personal thoughts and fears.

by Mike Wilson
13 January 2007

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