Rose Polenzani, Anybody

by Steve Lichtenstein

 

It would be easy and foolish to dismiss this album, and its author, as an example of another one of a seemingly endless string of female artists who pour out their battered soul over a one-dimensional layer of acoustic guitar (or piano—Tori, I’m looking at you) and unabashed strength. True, it could be done, and in that case, feel free to file this next to your Indigo Girls CDs. By all means. But there is an undeniable power and dark sweetness in this collection of songs which denies classification and deserves a serious ear. It’s true that Polenzani’s musical arsenal is almost strictly limited to herself and her guitar, with the exception of a violin and organ on the beautiful “Molly’s Lily,” and the mandolin and familiar harmonies of the aforementioned Indigo duo on “Or.” It’s true also that this style evokes the painful (to listen to) emotion of an artist like Jewel. But unlike Jewel, the songs on Anybody encompass your skin, caress it, rather then get under it. It’s a pleasure that subverts guilt in favor of quiet necessity. And while Jewel’s trademark yodely flutter is what attempts to hide her lofty yet mediocre lyrics and boring guitar work, Polenzani’s voice, though strong and subtly ebullient, is frail and humble. It is often a mere whisper that captivates you. She relies mainly on feeling and passion to create her point, and her voice merely drives it home. No one is saving her soul but her and her art, and she dares not venture to ask the question as bluntly as Jewel. Rather, she proves it in stunning melody and simple, elegant composition.

You’ll find no discernible singles here, though. If this is your goal, please go elsewhere. What you will find, however, are plaintive narratives and ethereal passion that will stick with you even after you’ve gone to sleep. Not that there aren’t some missteps: songs like “Or” and “Omen” don’t want you to get close to them, just accept them from a distance. But just try listening to the Dylan-esque swagger of the opening track “Shake Through to Ugly” or the raw and breathtaking “Olga’s Birthday” and convince yourself that you’re not hooked.

Anybody

Rating:

 

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