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Sprawling three-disc set of eloquent
and eclectic Baroque-pop

Joanna Newsom - Have One On Me
(Drag City Records)
3 1/2 (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: June 11, 2010
Joanna Newsom

Review by Tony Bonyata

With expectations running high after achieving notable success, not to mention landing on many "best of the decade" lists, with her delightful 2006 Ys album, harpist/singer/songwriter Joanna Newsom has responded with her third full-length effort Have One On Me - a sprawling three-disc set that showcases her arresting voice, magical arrangements and often enigmatic lyrical content.

While the music on Have One On Me follows in the path of her two previous works, the vast canvas of three albums gives Newsom room to really stretch out and explore. Using both the piano and harp as the foundation for many of the numbers, she adds a gentle orchestration to beautiful folk sonnets such as "'81," "In California" and the title track, but also lets the strength of the song itself shine through with just her harp and unique vocal delivery on the frail "Baby Birch." While the tempos rarely stray from the delicate and maudlin, she picks up the pace on the spirited "Good Intentions Paving Company" and the playful and mischievous "Soft As Chalk."

Just prior to recording the tracks for this album Newsom was recovering from vocal chord nodules, which is probably why her voice has a different sound and approach than before. Along with the Appalachian shape-note timbre that has been a part of her vocal style, she now also incorporates the knowing maturity of Joni Mitchell as well as the wide-eyed child-like inquisitiveness of Kate Bush early in her career. In fact, Newsom's left-field approach to her own style of Baroque-pop closely mirrors the eclectic, avant-garde nature of Bush's.

As history proves, two hours of new music from any artist may be too much for some to digest in one sitting, as no doubt there are some tracks that just aren't as strong as others. But many will also find, like any great double or triple album from the past that springs to mind (i.e. The Beatles' White Album, The Rolling Stones' Exile On Main Street, George Harrison's All Things Must Pass, Led Zeppelin's Physical Graffiti, Hendrix's Electric Ladyland, Dylan's Blonde On Blonde, et al), that even some of the lesser moments over time blossom into something much more beautiful - making the entire album a more enriching experience.

Related articles:

Joanna Newsom - Concert review - Milwaukee, WI - Apr. 2010
Joanna Newsom - Concert review - Milwaukee, WI - Oct. 2007

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