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Ladies Rule (01/12/2001) Write to CD Shakedown
Amy RigbyAmy Rigby, The Sugar Tree (Koch Records 2000) - On her third release, Amy Rigby continues to evolve as a folkie, with an emphasis on greater production values. Fans of smart songwriting a la Marshall Crenshaw will have fun with The Sugar Tree.

Before recording the new album, Amy moved from New York City to her new hometown of Nashville, where she hooked up with pop producer Brad Jones. She has opened tours for Warren Zevon and Billy Bragg, and won a spot on the Lilith Fair.

Amy RigbyThe musicians on The Sugar Tree include Amy Rigby on vocals and acoustic guitar, Brad Jones on piano, bass, and vibes, Nashville veteran Will Kimbrough on slide guitar and bass, Mickey Gramm on percussion, and Joe Graboff on guitar.

Amy RigbyYet the singer, who debuted in 1996 on Diary of a Mod Housewife, shows no sign of slowing down with tracks like "Balls" and the twisted lovers lament, "Cynically Yours" (one of the highlights of the album).

While I don't care for the more downbeat tracks (like "Let Me in a Little Bit"), Amy is capable of showing a satiric side not often seen in pop music. (Non-music comment - This artwork for this CD bites. Talk about a deal-killer.) Think Paula Cole, with more humor, or Christine Lavin, with more pop edges.

Barbara BrousalBarbara Brousal, Pose While it Pops (Love Letter Bomb Recordings 2000) - New York City chanteuse Barbara Brousal - described by one critic as "Brooklyn's own avenging Venus" - releases her first full-length collection on Pose While it Pops. With production assistance from Sim Cain (who has drummed for Rollins Band and the J. Geils Band), the collection has a sculpted yet experimental feel.

Now age 32, Brousal is a graduate of Amherst College. Barbara spent four years playing in Boston in a pop band called "Little Buffalo" before returning to Brooklyn. She now lives about five blocks from her childhood home, and holds a daytime gig teaching Spanish at her former grade school in Brooklyn Heights.

Barbara BrousalWhile Ms. Brousal has drawn comparisons to Kristen Hersh, I hear influences of Natalie Merchant, and even more, Shawn Colvin.

The musicians on Pose While It Pops include Barbara Brousal on vocals and acoustic guitar, Rob Arthur on organ and keyboards, Sim Cain on drums and percussion, John Abbey on bass, and Jane Scarpantoni on cello. The album was mixed by Juan Garcia, a protégée of Tchad Blake.

I discovered Brousal with her backing vocals on the Hangdogs' roots-rocker, "East of Yesterday." Brousal has also provided backing vocals for former Del Fuegos frontman Dan Zanes.

Barbara BrousalIn describing her music, Ms. Brousal says, "There's definitely a dark side, but singing makes me happy. . . I know I have hit on something worthwhile if I tear it up before I finish writing a song. I've tried to write happy songs, but I can't do it - not even when I'm in a good mood."

Introspective but not brooding, I lean toward tracks like "Throwing Bones," "Charm Bracelet," and "He Won't Dance," in which Brousal offers a glimpse of her inner self.

Barbara BrousalThe song "Soap & Water" has drawn attention, both from Steve Earle and from past boyfriends. Explains the singer, "A lot of ex-boyfriends come to my shows and think I am singing about them. But really this song is inspired by a combination of all my past relationships. It also shows irony because the singer claims she has forgotten, but she's really writing a whole song to the guy."

Think of Barbara as the Big Apple's answer to Eleni Mandell, the smokey independent singer from Los Angeles. Full of heart, Barbara Brousal will endear herself to you.

For more information, contact:

Loveletter Bomb Recordings
Post Office Box 20426
Brooklyn, NY 11202
Phone: 718/875-3010

Stephanie Rogers Stephanie Rogers, Not to Keep (Hipchick Records 2000) - Honey-voiced Chicagoan makes a strong impression with Not to Keep. And who could resist an album on Hipchick Records?

Ms. Rogers graduated from Northwestern University in 1992, where she majored in theater.

Stephanie RogersAgainst the wishes of her parents (who wanted her to be a lawyer!), Ms. Rogers moved to Los Angeles where she pursued film acting work and met a group of musicians who taught her how to play guitar and sing harmonies. Ms. Rogers has appeared in more than 50 commercials, and has provided vocals for video and pinball games and children's books.

Stephanie RogersMs. Rogers returned to Chicago in 1996, and now performs with a band that includes bass player Paul Merar, drummer, Kevin Connelley, guitarist Tom Sanchez, and keyboard player Scott Bennett.

Ms. Rogers shines on the playful "Blind Mistake," and hits a blues groove on "I'll Be Your Heat." But her strongest moment is the big-voiced rocker, "Not to Keep," in which she delivers a high-energy head turner.

Stephanie RogersIndie artists thrive, and countless musicians in Los Angeles would like to capture the spark of "Not to Keep."

For more information, contact:

Hipchick Records
Post Office Box 10190
Chicago, IL 60610-0190
Phone: 312/688-1342

- Randy Krbechek © 2001

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