Laura Satterfield,
Dirty Velvet Lie
(Triloka, 2000)

The CD title Dirty Velvet Lie accompanied by Marilyn Monroe-type poses in the CD booklet beg certain questions. What kind of music will this be, and what is the artist trying to say with these sexy photographs? Is it music to dance to or strip to? Is she serious, or is she simply having fun?

The first track, "Naked and Scared," brings back memories of Donna Summers and '70s-style rhythm and blues with a twinge of disco. Satterfield orgasmically sighs and moans her way through lyrics along the lines of "Beasts of burden dress me / covering my screams." What on earth was the "young crime" that caused the song's narrator to be "shackeled" (sic), and "naked and scared"?

Its immediate follow-up, "Gypsy King," penned by her mother, Priscilla Coolidge (yes, that Coolidge family -- Satterfield also has sung with her mother and aunt Rita in the group Walela), keeps that '70s funky rhythm and blues feel going. Satterfield's sultry, sweet voice, however, is overpowered by the music. Punching up the vocals would be appreciated. That request also applies to the opening rap of "Let Me Lay You Down." Sounding sexy doesn't have to mean a gentle, breathy voice overwhelmed by the musical accompaniment.

It's not until the middle of the CD that her voice really starts to come through. Despite the fact that "Only for You" is a slower track, her voice is stronger; the guitar, for example, complements her voice and doesn't hide it. The opening lines of her evocative cover of Jimmy Cliff's "Many Rivers to Cross," with only a quiet piano and organ in the background, also allow her voice, its vibrato almost to the point of actual shakiness, to make a point.

"Kiss Me Like I'm Dying," the CD's closing track, features the album's simplest arrangements. No organ, synthesizers, drums, nor even guitars here. Only a solo piano accompanies Satterfield's breathy vocals. On this gospel-laden track, those vocals are earnestly appropriate.

Dirty Velvet Lie is a sultry, sexy trip down a slightly updated musical memory lane. However, some punched-up vocals over the musical arrangements -- or less in the way of orchestration -- would be desired on follow-up recordings.

[ by Ellen Rawson ]

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