P.O. Box 1207
Decatur, GA 30031
A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
After two years of playing the Chicago open-mic scene, things started happening for Rose Polenzani. She embarked upon her first tour, was invited to play at the Newport Folk Festival and the local stop of the 1998 Lilith Fair, opened for Shawn Colvin, and received a surprise phone call from Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls asking if there was anything Ray could do for her. In 1998, she released her debut album Dragersville, a self-produced collection of original songs, to widespread acclaim. Now, her second album, Anybody, has been issued on Ray's Daemon Records (Ray set aside a long-time "Southern Artists only" rule to sign the Chicago singer-songwriter).
Anybody is an 11-song collection of home and studio recordings, compiled by Ray and Polenzani. The four songs from her original demo tape are included here. Three other tracks were executively produced by her first folk boss, Andrew Calhoun of Waterbug Records, whereas two derive from the Dragersville sessions. Some finishing touches were added later to these songs, including harmonies by the Indigo Girls on Or and Geoff Benge's wonderful mandolin flourishes.
Polenzani sounds like Tori Amos, Sara McLachlan, and Ursula Burns in that she has an expressive, breathy, sensual voice, which wraps itself around the mostly sparse acoustic instrumentation on Anybody. Some of her songs are as thick and full of imagery as those of early Suzanne Vega. These songs leave much to the imagination. Examples include The Chalice and Molly's Lily. In the latter song, some of the text is lifted directly out of the court records for the Salem Witch Trials. The imagery is further enhanced by the haunting violin backdrop of the Squirrel Nut Zippers' Andrew Bird. Other songs are even more obtuse - from Look No Hands: "Pull your tongue into the water. Pull it down to the lake. Pull in wind."
But others are much more obvious. Angel is a sexy bedroom song, but with a twist, indicating that love/lust isn't as perfect as it may seem at first. Olga's Birthday is about a woman who wants to sleep with another woman, but the pressures she places upon herself prevent her from publicly admitting it. It's a catchy upbeat melody, which stands out from the rest of the dour songs on the album.
Polenzani never considered herself a folk singer, "but it did amount to something when the folk audience started listening to what I did," she says. She cites the Cocteau Twins, Tori Amos, and Leonard Cohen as influences. She says she really wants to make rock music and hopefully her next album will take her in that direction. If so, she could be the second recent artist (after Patty Griffin) to make the leap from acoustic folk to rock successfully. Watch her, as this artist is on the rise.
Edited by Roberta B. Schwartz