[9 February 2012]
Chicago’s rootsy chateuse Martha Berner possesses a rich, soulful voice which serves her well in her latest offering, Fool’s Fantasy. Opening with jerky cello before a swift segue into bluesy-jam territory, “Fool’s Fantasy” establishes the terrain of the record, both sonically and lyrically. Follow-up “Brave” is the best song here, with its spitfire lyrics and bouncing, throbbing beat; other highlights include the rough-and-tumble “Adore Me II” and the almost industrial backdrop to the otherwise low-key “Some Stay a While.” Berner’s backing band, the Significant Others, is tight throughout, offering a variety of sonic textures that usually complement the song. Not every tune is memorable, though, and the back half of the record flags, with songs like “Irene”, “Never Talked to Oz”, and album closer “Burning Candles” falling into generic singer-songwriter territory. Despite this, Berner has a good voice, a solid band, and a fair number of strong tunes on display here.