Robin Pearl,
Wisteria
(Caleigho Records, 1998)

With the recent popularity of the "girl with a guitar" image -- promoted relentlessly by that estrogen-fest known as Lilith Fair -- female artists need a couple of things to break out of the mold and get some attention: a compelling voice and a distinctive sound. Unfortunately, Robin Pearl has neither.

OK, so that's a little harsh. Actually, Wisteria contains several tracks that do a good job of melding rock, blues and folk, but Pearl's music and her vocal stylings clash. For example, "Myth in Blue" starts off as a jazzy little piano number, but Pearl's voice just doesn't have the raw, throaty strength to do the song justice. "Poesy" is better, but there's still a timing problem with the music and the lyrics. Throughout the entire song, I found myself wondering, "Why did she hit a high note there? Why did she mess with the rhythm on that little bit?" Usually, idiosyncracies like that are what makes a song; in this case, they're what makes a song wrong.

"It Sure Ain't Love" comes across as a rousing country rocker, but Pearl's fake country accent spoils the effect. "Story," "Compromise" and "Swim Across" start off with some great rhythms, but Pearl's lyrics fall flat, lacking the true originality to keep them from sounding like average "you done me wrong" songs.

I tried to like this CD, but it just didn't happen. Robin Pearl is an ambitious singer-songwriter who just hasn't found her niche yet. If the music on Wisteria is what Pearl feels compelled to play, then she needs to work harder at singing these songs they way they should be sung -- full of strength and feeling -- rather than the quavery attempt she makes.

[ by Audrey M. Clark ]



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