Summer Dancing
(Elaine, 2002)

Summer Dancing is a light album, a post-punchline smile of songs. There's no lack of earnestness, but from the coconut beat of the opening song, something adds levity to every note.

The tunes on Summer Dancing aren't always compelling, but lyrics could carry a triangle band to success. "The Smokin' Song" may focus on trying to quit one special vice, but anyone who's ever tried to rewrite their own behavior will get a laugh out of the desperate story of a woman who is honestly, really trying to quit this time. "Temptation," the proper followup, allows itself an unorthodox meter that conveys the fishhook nature of alluring trouble. Lenore's lyrics are sometimes overwhelmed by their message; "My God" and "Just a Baby" especially seem buried beneath their moral, rather than supporting it. But when the songs are allowed to be understated, they can create an almost mythic story without any overt evangelizing. "Singer of the Night" and "The Man," taken together, create brave gods of artists and daredevils without ever using the word or insisting on belief.

This doesn't mean that there aren't any good tunes on the album. Besides comedic lyrics, "The Smokin' Song" offers a country rhythm that stands out from the more folk-pop sensibilities of most of the album. "Temptation" and "Driving" dance in a space between jazz and rock 'n' roll. "The Man" claims a more rock sensibility, in keeping with his lyrics, and the "Singer of the Night" is strangely reminiscent of Swedish pop, if it would settle down a bit. But the music still feels like a vehicle for the words, rather than a partner.

Part of the reason for the dominant lyrics may be Lenore's voice. Her voice is never domineering, and it's not jaw-droppingly beautiful. It just sounds as though she is, constantly, fighting a smile. That voice is what enlivens even grim songs like "I'll Tell on You." Lenore always sounds as though she has learned some kind, enormous joke and is trying to share it in her music. She doesn't press it too hard; any joke you have to explain isn't worth telling. But if you listen closely to Summer Dancing, you may get the gist of it.

- Rambles
written by Sarah Meador
published 20 September 2003

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