Pamela Means,
(Phylorra/BMI, 2000)

Probably not a very wise career move. Pamela Means' 1998 record Cobblestones was a terrific surprise and therefore my hopes for her new album were quite high. But despite all those expectations I sadly must admit that Pearls is a bit of an anti-climax.

No new studio tracks, instead it offers a collection of authorized bootlegs. OK, the album is not that bad -- after all Pamela Means is known to be something of a live talent. No wonder, she refined her considerable skills singing in Boston's subway system. Still living in that area, she no longer needs to play underground; these days she graces different stages across the country, giving well over 150 concerts a year.

Means claims that musicians are "influenced by everything you hear," and what got her going in the first place were the early works of Suzanne Vega and Tracy Chapman. You can still detect the influence of those two songwriter icons. What Means did add was a good deal more musical aggressiveness, following the successful example of a Ani DiFranco, who guested on Means' first CD from 1995.

It would have been nice to hear new material only on Pearls, but instead Means relies on some of her older songs and anyone should know better than to include the 1,000,000th remake of Bob Dylan's "Maggie's Farm." As this CD features bootleg recordings only, no one will be surprised to learn that the quality of the sound is rather thin and the production is erratic at best. Despite all that one is at least still able to grasp what a wonderful guitarist Means is.

If this happens to be your first encounter with the music of Pamela Means, you may still very much like what you hear -- a good mixture of pop, rock and folk, powerful vocals, it all seems to be there. The disappointment lies elsewhere: in the certain knowledge that Means is capable of so much more. Do yourself a favour, buy Cobblestones instead -- you will be rewarded amply. Or else just wait for Means' next release, as I'm sure the upcoming one will be better than average, as a talent like her will hardly make the same mistake twice.

[ by Michael Gasser ]
Rambles: 8 September 2001

Visit her website.