The kind of album that can make even the most hardened cynic think twice before issuing judgment.
I wasn't going to review this CD. Mostly because I felt I couldn't give it a fair shake, due to my basic hatred of this type of folky, piano-dominated music. It'd be like asking me to review a hardcore metal CD -- I simply can't tell what's good and what's not. But for some reason, I decided, what the hell, I'll pop it in as background music and see what happens.
What I'm about to tell you stays here. I can't have my reputation sullied just because I enjoyed one female singer-songwriter with an honest streak. That said, Seven Year Surrender simply isn't as bad as I had thought it would be. Even when you're not trying to listen too hard, the melodies end up lodged in your brain, and Jill Cohn's easygoing, sincere voice at turns haunts and inspires. Maybe that's the trick -- don't listen too hard.
I'm not saying I'm going to listen to this disc obsessively, or even at all. It's definitely not going on my iPod, if only for fear that it will come up during an embarrassing shuffle experience. But as accompaniment to my mid-morning food scrounging and lounging around in my underwear, it's something of a revelation. I feel like I must have heard this woman's songs before, but I see from the briefing material that she continues to be an underappreciated artist, even after nearly a decade of touring. And I'm pretty sure, unless I was knocked unconscious and dragged there, I haven't been present at Lillith Fair to watch her play (note: I don't know if she's actually been there). Aha! Some of her older songs were featured on Dawson's Creek, seasons two and three! In fact, I do hear a lot of Paula Cole in her. I mean, not that I watch that show. Not since Joey started dating Pacey, that smug son of a bitch. OK, on to the review.
Picking up steam by the third song, "Never Going Back", Seven Year Surrender maintains a solid mellow groove throughout, relying frugally on Cohn's voice, piano, and guitar for much of the running time. "Blind Date" startles with an addition of ethereal bells, mournful horns, and what sounds like electronic accompaniment -- maybe, to Jill Cohn fans, this is akin to Dylan's Newport Festival performance (I don't want to scare anyone here, but the final "hidden" track is entitled, "Blind Date -- Almutes Rap Version"). "Good Citizen" makes me think of what Sheryl Crow might sound like with a little more religion and perspective, and "Come on Home" would be perfect for a road trip with my mother, who would probably be obsessively asking if I had a girlfriend yet. Those are just some of the highlights.
If you already have some inclination towards this type of music, I'd suggest you pick up this album. You probably won't be disappointed. If, on the other hand, you're like me, and have become impossibly cynical and closed-off to this simplistic, earnest style of music-making, you might want to pass it by. Like I did. I refused to even listen to it. Um, remember?
"'Cause I'm never going back to emotional hell, say goodbye aye aye aye, doo doo doo doo doo doo doo dooooo...."