Sunday, August 06, 2006

Men and Mascara

They always run. Like Ed. He was too hopped up on Substance D and needed to take a break. So here I am, talking about country music.

Mascara runs down her face like black rivers. So says Julie Roberts, on the title song from her new album, the best thing I've heard all year. Recently I've been skipping straight to track 10, "That Ain't A Crime", so that's where we'll start. A simple lovesick ballad: "I know you're gone/I just can't move on/'Cause your memory is chained to my mind/That ain't a crime". The tune is three guitar chords headed down an octave with minimal drum accents. When the aforementioned chorus hits, all that's added is some ethereal pedal steel lines that float above it. Basic - so what sells the song is Julie's voice to flesh it out. She trills up "can't move on", and rolls on back down until she matter-of-factly states "that ain't a crime" in a conversational, husky tone. Her voice weeps, recognizes the voyeuristic enjoyment of the listener, and lets them know that this shit is normal. Then the bridge punches me in the stomach: "I've tried and I've tried/I've cried and I've cried/Over you/Over you". That last over you is elongated until its meaning resides solely in the way it is sung, as she wrings all the life out of that last syllable, taking all her heartbroken rage out on that godforsaken "you". I almost cry but I don't. Written by Mercurcy Nashville's Carson Chamberlain and EMI's Chris Stapleton. Best ballad since Faith Hill's "Like We Never Loved At All"! Probably even better!

Words not so important there, but oh do they strengthen the rest of the album. Let's take a sampling: "Men and Mascara": "Sunday dress hangin' on the bedroom door/Empty bottle of wine on the hardwood floor"; "Chasin' Whiskey": "That oscillating fan is moving left to right/Like it's mockin' me for coming here again last night"; "Too Damn Young": "In that moonlight he saw my tan lines".

Julie wrote zero of those tunes, for those interested (she did co-write four on the album).

A favorite moment of mine, on "Girl Next Door", a high school lament "she's the prom queen/I'm in the marching band", etc. Has some jaunty mandolin for the melody and some nice turns of phrase "Maybe I'll admit it, I'm a little bitter/Everybody loves her, but I just wanna hit her." But on the bridge, she repeats the big chorus and tones it down, rolling over the words lackadaisically, almost mumbling them but still remaining perfectly intelligible. It's playful, you know.

This is what you're stuck with for the week. Tomorrow: the Buffalo Bills!


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