album reviews

Christine Lavin
Appleseed Recordings (2005)

Equal parts folksinger and comedienne, Christine Lavin alternates songs with entertaining anecdotes about modern life. On her 17th album, "folkZinger," Lavin shows no sign of losing her sense of humor, even as she states strong opinions on the current regime. Teaming with songwriter Ervin Drake for the political commentary "The Peter Principle at Work," she addresses the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, and the resulting war. Lavin understates her vehemence with a few quirky phrasings: Regarding President Bush, she sings, "He thinks God made him President/Ever notice we didn't do it?/Is it time for us to say, 'Oh Lordy, Oh Lordy, somebody blew it!' " But "folkZinger" isn't all politics: Lavin tenderly covers the Beatles' "All My Lovin' " and includes two versions of a tribute to her hometown, "Winter in Manhattan." The first is a solo performance, while an a cappella version sung by the Accidentals displays the song's versatility, with eight voices capturing both the lyrics' sweetest moments and the craze of trying to hail a New York taxi in snowy weather.

Lavin takes a break from singing to rant about e-mail lists on the humorous "Chicken Soup." But these amusing tales work best when separate from her songs: she interrupts a lush version of Donovan's "Happiness Runs" to reminisce about meeting the songwriter on an airplane. That break would be engaging in concert, but it disrupts the song's flow, even though Lavin's bouncy guitar carries on uninterrupted throughout. But even that misstep shows Lavin's compelling nature, as she exudes confidence even when face-to-face with one of her musical heroes.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post: 2 December 2005, Page WE18
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