album reviews

Who's Got Trouble?
Zoe (2005)

Like so many other corporate rock casualties, quirky pop trio Shivaree seemed to have vanished after its first major-label disc -- that is, until the release of "Who's Got Trouble?," its first Stateside release in five years.

The trio -- vocalist Ambrosia Parsley, guitarist Duke McVinnie and keyboardist Danny McGough -- won acclaim for its 1999 debut on Capitol Records, but its follow-up was limited to a European release. Until the group settled on Zoe Records (home of other somber-pop, major-label refugees such as Cowboy Junkies and Lisa Loeb), Parsley managed to keep busy in other ways: Her voice is spotlighted on a weekly segment titled "Ambrosia Sings the News" on "The Al Franken Show" on Air America Radio.

With Shivaree, Parsley coos with a plaintive Gwen Stefani-esque baby-girl voice that is balanced by the band's subtly glowing melodies. She is captivating as she pouts outrageous promises like "I should try to be good / Forever and ever" in "Little Black Mess" and seductively laments a lost crush with "Now you'll never know my first kiss / Someone else will" in "Mexican Boyfriend."

Although Parsley's airy vocals might be the most notable thing on "Trouble," the backing instrumentation grounds her with its repetitive simplicity. On "Baby Girls," as Parsley stretches every word, the music behind her fills in the gaps with a soft, brooding melancholy, echoing her gloom while diminishing any possible melodrama. As Parsley whispers her goodbyes with the album-closing "I Will Go Quietly," she leaves behind the hope that it won't be such a long wait before she and Shivaree return.

-Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post: 23 January 2005
.: Who's Got Trouble? on