Patti Witten,
Prairie Doll
(Potent Folk, 2000)

I was expecting maybe Emmylou Harris and ended up with Vonda Shepard. Which isn't all that bad, it's just not what the name Prairie Doll, along with a cover photo of a field of baled hay, brought to mind. Still, several of the tunes on this second offering from the award-winning Patti Witten border on an easy listening/country sound that some will find quite pleasing.

The first song, "Wild One," was written about the bad boy we've all had at least one run in with: "...the phone rings or it doesn't, the mailman never comes. I thought he was, I wish he wasn't, someone I could love...." Enough said. "Something Beautiful" has much more of the lounge sound that caught me by surprise. The "Level Green Boys" are a truckload of fellas who provide stoplight entertainment for a woman who has sworn off men for life. "For You" is a love song written for that special someone who is responsible for bringing an end to loneliness, while "How Long 'Til It's Over" covers the opposite end of the spectrum -- looking for an end to loneliness.

The final cut is, for me, the best offering. It has one of those introductions that make you think maybe somebody didn't quite come in on time, then, you realize it's you. "Call The Angels" is a song I can totally identify with, remembrances of all those who've gone ahead of us, wishing you could have that last conversation, to say the things you never got a chance to say, or didn't say when you did have time.

Witten, a classically trained former backup singer, is a self-taught guitarist who had set aside a career in music to be a graphic artist. But an invitation to a songwriting workshop in the late '90s put possibilities back in front of her, and she's been steamrolling since. She has been awarded for both singing and songwriting, is featured on a compilation CD put together by Music Reviews Quarterly, and was the featured artist for May 2000 in Independent Songwriter Web-Magazine.

Prairie Doll has just six tunes, all "live-in-the-studio" demos, and all are well performed. And while I was wishing for a little something more in her voice, maybe more of the smoky, sultriness these songs lacked, Witten surrounds herself with excellent musicians in Rich DePaolo (electric guitar and harmony), Doug Robinson (bass) and Bill King (drums).

[ by Sheree Morrow ]

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