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Goodnight San Francisco
Artist: The Bittersweets
Label: Compass Records
Length: 48 minutes 
 
Alt-country-folk-pop trio The Bittersweets offer songs that reflect their name, feeling that, in writer Chris Meyers’ view, “Art is at its best when it’s asking questions, rather than giving answers.” Singer Hannah Prater adds,”I think the name fits us, because a lot of the songs talk about life’s tensions (embracing) both the beautiful and the ugly, happy and sad, life’s paradoxes.” These things give her plenty of expressive lyrics to interpret, and she does so, claiming to be influenced by Joni Mitchell and Over The Rhine. Her voice is more rounded than Mitchell’s, although you can hear echoes in “My Sweet Love;” but Karin Bergquist’s inspiration is all over this like waves over the sea, especially in some of the stronger , slower songs, such as “Wreck” and “Is Anyone Safe?” along with “Tidal Waves“ and the final, untitled piece.

The thoughtful lyrics are clearly written by someone with a gift for conveying stories visually and deal mostly with relationships that don’t work, and even end in tragedy. How about this for conveying the passage of time and empty alliances: 

                                        The days went by like highway miles
                                        Songs and bars and bathroom tiles 
                                        TV screens left dreaming in the dark?

This is a very Nashville album, for better or worse, with players such as Don Williams’ steel guitarist, Ben Folds’ cellist, John Prine’s long-time bassist and a keyboard player who has worked with Emmylou Harris, The Dixie Chicks and Josh Rouse. Over the whole disc, it can mean that the feel is almost of over-production, but such talents add some appropriate sounds to the collection. There is a haunting quality to “Lies,” shimmering reverb on “Tidal Waves,” and some lovely twanging on “Bordertown.” Furthermore, the final track “When the War is Over” (if you don’t count the ‘hidden’ one) is left as a spacious piece, adorned only with gently picked guitar, atmospheric slide and a deft brush of cello.

There could be more variety to the sound, but those who love the more country side of Over The Rhine should enjoy this, as should many who love Nashville product, or are bearing the scars of difficult relationships and still working through them.

Derek Walker


 

 
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