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I've thrown at least half a dozen verbal tomatoes at the trend of young girls screeching their lyrics -- unless it's through the mouthpiece of Joplinesque talent, I want to run for cover. Finally, there's relief: A young woman who sounds like a w-o-m-a-n (as in Suzanne Pleshette or Lauren Bacall). Another "finally" is inspired by Parasol's molding of noir/cabaret to her own image. Most male imitators of Tom Waits and Nick Cave have lost their freshness for me. But when a w-o-m-a-n comes on like a cross between Lotte Lenya, Nick Cave, and Patti Smith, I slump at the bar with a Shirley Temple and take notice.

Parasol's dynamics make her work more than predictably noir. Tracks like "Covenant" and "A Drinking Song" are woven with fierce guitars and kinetic rhythms. Also integral is Parasol's ability to glide from spoken word to the cracked syllables of heartbreak to clear, hard anger. Unusually, my focus is held through most of Blood and Wine's 16 stories, which are colored by San Francisco circa the Barbary Coast, Parasol's history, and a slew of European and literary influences. Those influences don't preclude occasional missteps (from "You Cast a Spell on Me": "I'm a shady spot/I'm a Tater Tot/I'm a woman who bleeds/I'm a can." As in Patti Smith's best work, Parasol's vehemence rescues her from the ridiculous.

  • Album title: For Blood and Wine (2009)
  • Artist: Rykarda Parasol
  • Label: Self-produced
  • Songs: (1) The Road Is Long, (2) Drinking Song, (3) Widow in White, (4) Maggie, (5) One for Joy!, (6) Hold Back the Night, (7) For All Men Kill, (8) Covenant, (9) My Blood, (10) My Spirit Lives in Shadows, (11) Je Suis Une Fleur, (12) You Cast A Spell On Me, (13) No Sir! (Ain't No Man Gonna), (14) ...The Thing They Love, (15) Kindness, You're Killing Me, (16) Swans Will Save
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