The music industry is based on categorization. The easy grouping of various products leverages marketing power, with the result maximum profit with minimal investment. And that's an accountant's dream.
But were music based on the strict rules that govern the accounting profession, we'd no doubt have exhausted every possible avenue of creativity by now, and the world would be filled with the blandly inoffensive and the frighteningly familiar, all carefully calculated to appeal to the broadest possible demographic.
Thank goodness for genre-defying artists like Kristen Schuldt and friends, collectively known as Hydraulic Woman.
Kristen wrote all the songs (two with a bit of help from bandmates Mike Nelson and Jim Rumpf respectively) on "Glad Game," her debut outing. And while it's not perfect - accountants would shudder at the rough edges in evidence, the just-slightly ragged approach - those who love the sound of real people singing songs that come from the heart, and doing so for reasons loftier then commercial recompense, will find much to like in Ms. Schuldt's work.
Don't mistake this one for a blues recording; there's really nothing at all here that falls under twelve-bar conventions. There's as much pop as anything else, with much of the material not terribly far removed from the 'sensitive singer-songwriter' school. Acoustic guitars predominate (in addition to lead vocals, Kristen contributes rhythm guitar), with occasional touches of harmonica, even a bit of accordion (though it's not listed anywhere in the credits). Jim Rumpf provides most of the lead guitar, with a couple of guest turns to spice things up; he's also responsible for most of the harmonica, which definitely won't make any blues fans forget the masters.
Although there are hints of influences as diverse as Sheryl Crow ("Bring It On") and Sara McLaughlin ("Fought A Feeling"), if one were to guess at the artist Kristen has spent the most time with I'd put my money on Tracy Chapman. Still, there's nothing derivative at all here, it's merely that Kristen's compositions follow established conventions of solid, intelligent songcraft; they're all very good, and while the production lacks the sheen that better-known artists enjoy, it results instead in a level of sincerity and honesty that over-production all too often leaches out. In short, one believes Kristen means every word she sings, that her music comes from the heart. And that, while it won't line as many pockets as the generic product of so-called superstars, is ultimately worth so very much more . . .
Not to all tastes, and not for hard-core blues fans, but a fine and welcome disc nonetheless.
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This review is copyright © 2002 by John Taylor, and Blues On Stage at: www.mnblues.com, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission.
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