Laura Cortese,
Even the Lost Creek
(self-produced, 2006)

On her first CD, Hush, Laura Cortese made an excellent show of how an imaginative musician can successfully reimagine traditional music for a young, modern audience. On her follow-up recording, Even the Lost Creek, Laura has gone in a different direction.

The fiddle sets that accounted for about half of the previous album have been reduced to an afterthought. Compared to her recent work, which was joyful and invigorating, the instrumental tracks on Lost Creek mostly seem lifeless and sadly out of place. Her fiddle, once in the forefront, is now more of an occasional accent.

The dominant presence here is the songs, which dance on the folk side of country. And, while Laura's voice remains lovely, she has veered sharply away from her former pattern of reinterpreting traditional pieces. Only two songs draw on traditional sources -- Laura relies this time more on contemporary cover songs -- and her arrangements have mostly crossed the line into modern folk-pop -- they're not nearly so memorable as the songs found on Hush.

"Jack Orion" spells out a good story about a fiddler, his lover and their trickster friend, and is the best of the traditional pair. Laura's original songs are pretty enough, particularly "Blow the Candle Out," but they lack staying power, as does the handful of covers. (The Cure's "Just Like Heaven"? Really?) Laura's lyrics are earnest and sweet, but mostly lack depth and resonance.

Of course, Laura's voice is still as fine as ever, and I can't shake off a certain feel-good vibe when listening to her sing. I suppose if this were my first exposure to her music, I'd be writing it up as a very good folk recording; it's only because I was so fond of her previous sound that this one pales in comparison.

Having absolutely loved Hush, I found Even the Lost Creek wanting. I haven't given up on this amazing performer yet, however; I trust her to find the middle road between traditional and contemporary music that will satisfy us all.

by Tom Knapp
22 April 2006

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