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Garrison Starr follows Mindy Smith onto the Vanguard Records roster. Vanguard has been carefully crafting an artist list with smart, edgy female singer/songwriters who are more Lucinda Williams and less Shawn Colvin. With Ms. Smith they have mostly been meeting with success. Now Hernando, Mississippi native Garrison Starr mixes things up with her new release, Airstreams & Satellites, a collection of moody, slickly produced in-your-face-songs about complicated love and the hopeful ahead.
Ms. Starr first reached the airways with her 1996 debut Stupid Girl. Geffen Records subsequently picked her up, perhaps, in the eyes of the suits, promising to be the next Melissa Etheridge, except this time more mainstream and country. After two recordings with Geffen, Ms. Starr returned to indie labels with the very well received Songs from Take-off to Landing on Back Porch Records. On Airstreams & Satellites, little is left of the country promise. She, like Mindy Smith, is trying to carve out a place in the unforgiving 21st Century country/fold/adult contemporary crossover market.
The songs are provocative. "Gasoline" might be major updating of the blues tune, "I Asked for Water," where Ms. Starr sings over a retro-industrial purr:
You wrapped your arms around me and I woke up soaked in gasoline...
This is the song Howlin’ Wolf would have sung, he had been a white woman in the new South. "Superhero" is the Nirvana hard rock salute to childhood, a kind of cyber- To Kill A Mockingbird. "Underneath the Wheel" is a pleasant acoustic tome lamenting of love running out of fuel too early. These are great songs with catchy riffs and hooks. I hope this music has what it takes to put a crack into the armor of the current popular music market. God knows someone must do it.
Jazz is a continuing revelation. The best show I ever attended was the
Roots Picnic at Penn's Landing in Philadelphia, or was it Robert
Glasper's Experiment at Lincoln Center, or was it Chick Corea with
Brian Blade at Oberlin College? Most of all I enjoy playing guitar and
composing beats with my Brooklyn-based group Space Captain.