Leslie Nuss,
(Littleleaf Records, 1998)

OK. I'll admit it. You know that old saying, "Never judge a book by its cover"? Well, I do. All the time. Can't help it.

So when I got the press kit for Leslie Nuss's debut CD, Heliotrope, I was expecting something floaty and ethereal -- blame it all on the flowers and butterflies gracing the case. I was wrong. Happily wrong.

Nuss's distinctive voice has a harsh beauty that, at times, reminds me of Dolores O'Riordan of The Cranberries. Her strong delivery brings a needed edge to the CD, as some of the lyrics, when read by themselves, come across as overly-Romantic. Of course, that's only natural; the cover design is very William Blake-ish, and "Garden of Death" is a response to Blake's poem, "Garden of Love."

"Child of God" was influenced by Gabriel Garcia Marquez; Nuss imagines her own death and afterlife. Following right behind it is the meditative "Butterfly," in which Nuss sings of her desire to be reborn as a butterfly. Henry Frayne of Lanterna adds his stereo guitar to "Hold My Heart," adding depth and texture to Nuss's arrangements.

This is an excellent CD; in fact, there's only one weak spot on the entire album, and it's not really a weak spot. "Wedding Ring" is a well-crafted, country-flavored song that features WILCO's Jay Bennett on guitar. The song placed in the top ten in the online Lilith Fair writing contest. However, its country twang makes it stand out in the midst of Nuss's hypnotic vocals and alterna-pop rhythms.

Nuss has a new CD, Backwards in Heels, scheduled for a late spring release; not as folksy as this album, it features Nuss rocking full-out with more of her original material.

[ by Audrey M. Clark ]

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