LIKE SYD STRAW before her, Lori Carson found an early home for her sweet, expansive singing with Anton Fier's eclectic, revolving-door supergroup the Golden Palominos. Her clear blue vocals cut through songs that were all confusion--though sometimes brilliant confusion--and made what was experimental also touching and real. On her third and best solo outing, Everything I Touch Runs Wild, Carson pulls the Palominos' inside out, keeping Fier and dub maestro Bill Laswell for support, but turning her torchy instrument up and taking control of the songs. Although the album was mostly recorded in Carson's bedroom, the result is hardly experimental. But these sensuous songs engage on other levels.
Unquestionably, Carson has a lovely voice: sophisticated but not cold, high but not frilly, seductive but never sleazy, even when she yearns through lines like "I wish I had you in my bed" on "Something's Got Me." But for all the vocal richness, Carson perches on the same wire for every song. The mourning-dove treatment is just right for lovesick tunes like "Make a Little Luck" and "Souvenir," but what about "Snow Come Down," a song with the chilling lines, "My first lover beat me black and blue/I was 15 years old/A couple of others/They were cheaters too/But I never had nobody half as mean as you"? Shouldn't there be a chill or a sob or a brand new gun somewhere? Instead, Carson croons everything in the same lugubrious soprano--even the word "fuck" (in "Black Thumb"), which would seem meant to sound angry but, given the delivery, just winds up sounding dumb.
With Carson holding her voice in such tight check, it's tempting to dismiss her lyrics, since the phrasing makes them all feel the same. But her songwriting, while circling eternally around the big drag she calls love, conjures some real-world tangibles--like redneck bars and talk-show ladies--that are scarce in typical torch songs, and they sparkle here. Subtle cellos and acoustic guitar create an intimate background for Carson's contemplations, but it's when the melodies break out, like on "Something's Got Me," with its smashing dance groove, and "Souvenir," which unfolds to a refrain that sounds like pure summer among these rainy day songs, that this record really sings. It makes one wonder what Carson would come up with if she just got out of the house more.
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