Under Review: Erin McKeown – Hundreds Of Lions

Since her full-length debut in 2000, Erin McKeown has been a rather busy musician.  Aside from touring constantly and supporting charitable human rights causes, she’s crafted several eclectic, masterful albums.  The latest in that line is Hundreds Of Lions, Erin’s first for the iconic Righteous Babe label.  Hundreds Of Lions is technically Erin’s first album of all-original material since 2005, as her last record, the wonderful Sing You Sinners, was mostly comprised of songs from Tin Pan Alley and the swing era.  Those influences are extremely evident on the new songs on Lions, as playfully jazzy instruments blend seamlessly with electronics and McKeown’s melodious contralto.  The songs are tonally dark yet inviting and playful, with jittery beats guiding “All That Time You Missed” and “Santa Cruz.”  One of McKeown’s greatest gifts is a knack for lyrics.  Lines on Lions range from poetic (“To A Hammer”) to heartbreakingly honest (“The Lions”).  Other highlights include “(Put The Fun Back In The) Funeral,” which semi-seriously describes being buried alive, and “You, Sailor,” which was introduced on McKeown’s live album, LaFayette.  Like on Erin’s other albums, the songs on Hundreds Of Lions flow together as though they were culled from a musical or vaudeville act.  In that sense, the record can be seen as the minor-key counterpart to the perpetually bouncy Sing You Sinners.  With each step of her musical evolution, Erin McKeown has become one of the most consistently enjoyable songwriters around.  Hundreds Of Lions is a stellar addition, not only to her own catalogue, but to the list of best albums of the year.

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~ by E. on October 14, 2009.

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