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Current concise reviews of the albums by adult alternative, contemporary, and crossover artists. Images of album artwork and links to both internet-based resources are always included. Click on the title to view the article.

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Lady Is A Pirate CD Cover
Image © Megan Slankard 2001

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(02 February 2004) Lady Is A Pirate(MS2966, 2001) Megan Slankard’s debut album reflects the place of its genesis, Tracy, California--it's full of beautiful, warm songs. She was 17 when she made it and had already been playing professionally for two and a half years. She borrowed a mic and recorded it her living room using her brother's Digital Performer software. The result is an extraordinarily warm sound with crystal clear vocals. What lifts this CD and Megan Slankard above the many other west coast female singer-songwriters currently doing the rounds is the quality of the song writing, her exquisite voice and her distinctive vocal delivery which means that, despite the simple instrumentation throughout.Megan plays guitar and sings and Rich Talley adds bass and there's always something to grab you and hold you in thrall.

There's a tendency to call any music produced by a young woman playing an acoustic guitar 'folk.' This definitely can’t be applied to this album; most of the songs have the feel of stripped down rock numbers.Only her guitar style in "Haven't Been Down" approaches anything folk-like; and even then it's in an early Joni Mitchell/Neil Young kind of way. Megan also uses some interesting tunings like Joni did.

There are two distinct Megan Slankards on this CD. The first is the one singing songs in her own 'voice.'Tracks like "Landed," "Damn You," "Second Best" and "Me Again" are simply brilliant. The other 'Megan' uses a voice with slightly overdone jazzy/blues tendencies which just doesn't match up. By far the weakest track--in fact the only weak track--on the album is "Radio Blues." This version of Megan's voice detracts from the otherwise very fine "Strictly Mr T." And then, just to confound me, the smoky delivery on "Company" is brilliantly effective. The songs in her own voice are simply so much better.

Where age often shows is in the lyrics. But, but there's no hint of a surfeit of teenage angst here; in fact many of the lyrics are complex, offbeat and sophisticated in both construction and delivery, showing personal insight and a sense of self-deprecating humour too. "I said, 'what's up?, how’s it going? what's been happening my man? Yo! / But what I really meant to say was just 'hello'." [Haven’t Been Down]. She often uses this conversational style, a personal approach which succeeds in pulling the listener in, getting them really involved. "First of all," he said, "what is this? Are you trying to make my heart beat faster or are you trying to stop it?" [Damn You]. Even the more conventionally constructed songs are full of neat lyrical twists and turns--they just tend to rhyme more. In fact the only lyrically weak song is, once again "Radio Blues."

Overall, this is a gorgeous, beautifully realised, debut album, full of imagination and clever observation. Megan's voice is a fluid and evocative instrument that leads you through the maze of her offbeat and individual world. And perhaps most excitingly of all, it promises a whole lot more.--Jamie Field

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