To begin with a small caveat: The next time any contemporary folkie writes a song about how you fell asleep in the passenger seat on our all-night drive across the desert and I looked at you in the dashboard light and felt us growing further apart, I swear to God violence will follow. Swift, terrible violence. Ditto for songs about Jesus and Elvis, in any supposedly ironical combination.
Sorry. It's just that Lucy Kaplansky can, and often does, do better when she steers clear of the melodrama and stock situations. Scan the titles of some of the cuts in her back catalog, and you know you're in for some rough times: "End of the Day," "One Good Reason," "Five in the Morning," "For Once in Your Life." These are songs sung by people clutching at the far end of the rope, and Kaplansky runs the gamut here: lost and found lovers, dying parents, hospitals, the hands of little children, failed folksingers, insomniac bouts of self-image crises You get the feeling that no one ever just hangs around the house on a lazy Saturday afternoon. In Kaplansky's neighborhood, everything's a big damn deal.
Kaplansky aspires to be a full-on singer-songwriter, more in the vein of Nanci Griffith (with whom Kaplansky shares several positive vocal qualities) than Ani DiFranco. There's nothing terribly esoteric about any of her cuts -- which isn't a complaint; her vocal-and-guitar performances are solid standouts. If you're looking for a familiar folkie sound and can't get enough of songs about how people can't communicate, you won't be disappointed.
McGonigel's Mucky Duck, 2425 Norfolk
Thursday, February 6; 713-528-5899
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