By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Dream catchers all
Sweets for Slumber
Things That Show
Perception can be altered by exposure, which is how classic soul--thought the coolest back in the punk era, when it was relatively underappreciated--became so tiresome once ascendant. If you have a roommate who constantly plays acoustically driven and folksy music like the Dreamcatchers', you may well want to chase all the unicorns out of their sylvan glade with a flamethrower.
If you are not so oppressed, however, the Dreamcatchers--mainly featuring the voices of Terri Collins and Jen Wanamaker playing off and against each other--might stimulate musings on the decline of mellow, relaxing music after the excesses of the '70.
For that is what Sweets for Slumber is, a pretty and soothing CD that examines hearts and feelings with a philosopher's curiosity and an almost medieval courtliness. The two vocalists' acoustic strumming is augmented by various instrumental additions--flute, electric guitar, viola--and the drumming of Martin McCall and Adam Armstrong's bass playing keep the listener from nodding off.
Would the Dreamcatchers be as disliked as Jackopierce if they had a major-label deal? Probably not; there's enough accessibility in their singing--beautifully clear vocals either joined in harmony or separated to flutter about each other like amorous butterflies--to convince you that they're just regular folks, an acceptance that JP could never quite manage, even though its genesis was average-Joe to the extreme.
It's an idea a lot like the British concept of exalting the amateur, of looking for that dedication that's somehow more than professional; it's a rejection of drum-machine perfection in favor of flavor--the wrinkles and worry lines (even a wart or two) that add up to character.
Kris McKay backed into singing, falling into a backup spot with Austin's fabled Wild Seeds. Now on her own, with Things That Show she weighs in with a voice that isn't technically perfect but far from flawed--the voice of someone whose friends were probably always telling her, "Y'know, you should sing."
It's a familiarity that makes Things an immediately affecting work, from the triumphant cover of the old English Beat hit "Save it for Later"--finally, here's someone unafraid to do a cover that actually sounds different than the source, but who is capable enough to keep it true--to introspective ruminations on life and love, Things That Show is the next chapter in straightforward vocal pop, the first whose punk and new-wave accents aren't conscious (marketing) decisions, but deeply ingrained influences that began in youth and here fashion new skin for an old ceremony.