Shivaree: Who's Got Trouble

Shivaree
Who's Got Trouble
Zoë/Rounder Records

Shivaree doesn't make coffee-shop music. Sure, the dark cabaret pop on the New York trio's third album Who's Got Trouble? stands pretty much assured to vibrate the earwax of public caffeine users. But the Starbuck stops here, because singer Ambrosia Parsley (real name!) harbors enough inner hellhounds to keep all but the most intrepid suede-elbow-patched suitors off her trail. "I should try to be good/Forever and ever/Amen/So I'll touch wood/And hope I don't get caught again," the noirish vamp coos at the beginning of "Little Black Mess." With languid desperation, the track's string-enhanced mambo presents the singer as a paragon of formidability--largely thanks to her voice, a fire-and-ice instrument that subtly screams gun-toting wood nymph on vodka.

Sounding even more dangerous when she waxes political, Parsley laces her lyrics with double meaning as sneakily as Gina Gershon dopes other people's beverages in Demonlover. Lightly country-fried album opener "New Casablanca" finds her acting as a resistance fighter, breathily intoning, "Please take me out of here/My handsome buckaroo/Wait until I get my hands all over you/Who's unhappy?/We're unhappy/Grab my coat and make it snappy." The proposition at first sounds like a mere emotional tangle with a fellow American, but Parsley's actually plotting her escape from the land of the increasingly unfree.

Such lyrics merit close listening, especially on gospel-tinged album closer "I Will Go Quietly," which presents a litany of ways that Parsley won't fight back if the law ever comes to claim her. While the singer's real-life crimes against the state are currently limited to her monthly Ambrosia Sings the News spots on Air America Radio, the song anticipates a time when simply knowing Al Franken may become a capital offense. By the time she gets to the song's coy closer, "I will go quietly/I swear," you still aren't quite sure what offenses she's committed. But something in her voice suggests that her would-be captors are in for a hail of bullets.

 
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