CD Review: Exene Cervenka

Somewhere Gone (Bloodshot)

Cervenka keeps it short, sweet and simple on this one. The miminal, everybody-up-front production quality suits the brief-to-the-point-of-haiku songs. Most of the tracks feature Cervenka's own strum-a-strum guitar with some light strings, bass and drums. The opening track, "Trojan Horse," is a bouncy number that wouldn't be out of place on a Donna the Buffalo album but with deeper, less upbeat lyrics. "Why Is It So" has a Kimya Dawson-like straightforwardness. "Walk Me Across the Night" is right out of the jukebox in a malt shop frequented by poets and philosophers, and "Fevered Paper" has a lightness and transparency that belies its apocalyptic imagery.

The only non-original, folk staple "The Willow Tree," is one autoharp away from a Carter Family tune, with Amy Farris contributing some sweet fiddle and harmony vocals. Album closer "Pinpoints" is a dramatic number that takes a page from Desire-era Dylan, with Joe Terry's rolling piano arpeggios and Farris's sweeping gypsy viola putting a decisive ending on it. Cervenka has always been a wordsmith, and this is no departure for her. The lyrics are evocative and elegant, even if they don't always scan musically. Her voice throughout has a vulnerable quiver and occasional slip of tonality that gives the lyrics an added urgency. A stronger voice might shatter these crystalline structures. It's the precariousness that keeps you listening. — Peggy Latkovich