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Brooke and The Story sounds even better in concert


WBOS Lunchtime Concert Series.

South Station, Thursday noon.

By Joel M. Rosenberg

The story of The Story is a story in itself. After meeting as freshmen at Amherst in 1981, Jonatha Brooke and Jennifer Kimball began writing songs together and giving concerts. After college, they went their separate ways, until Green Linnet records finally recorded their female duo, folk-rock, Indigo Girls-esque (though cooler) sound on a CD called Grace in Gravity.

Electra records signed the group and re-released in 1992 this album, as well as their 1993 album, The Angel in the House. It was after the extensive summer tour for this album that Kimball decided to take a break from the group, and with her departure Electra decided to dump Brooke. Not discouraged, Brooke kept writing, and Blue Thumb records came to the rescue in 1995 to produce Plumb under a new name: Jonatha Brooke and The Story.

Each of the three albums has a unique sound to it. Grace is acoustic and deftly harmonizes to some awesome lyrics. Song content ranges from racism in South Africa to the Little Mermaid to an e.e. cummings poem. With a very mellow feel, it makes a great album to study and sleep to. And one of their a capella songs shows off the talent in the pair's voices.

The second album, Angel in the House, has a more prominent band, making it slightly more hard core, if that term is even applicable to this type of music. The songs explore just beyond where the first album left off, with funkier rhythms and odd percussion sounds. There's even a CD bonus track where the girls are replaced by several Spanish men. It's a response to an earlier song about society's perfectionist view of how women should be called "fatso." It's called "Fatso, Part 2: Yo Estoy Bien Asi (I Feel Fine the Way I Am)." This kind of social commentary embedded in really good tunes defines Story's intelligent, engaging, and enjoyable music.

For her solo album, Plumb, Jonatha backs herself up with an even bigger, more rocking band. She employs Ingrid Graudins, a new vocalist who basically sounds a lot like Jennifer though ridiculously underbilled compared to her predecessor. This time around, the music has a relaxed, partially depressing theme, as in the first album, but with the fuller sound of the band from the second. Again, there are interesting new twists that weren't attempted earlier. Brooke does a witty duet with a guy for a change, contemplating "war" with Bruce Cockburn. And there's a song (albeit a short one) involving no singing at all. It's an Irish jig, in fact, and is definitely a strange choice for a solo female singer with which to end her debut album.

These three discs are excellent, but the live show is even better. Brooke breaks down the wall of the stage, and practically engages in conversations with audience members. The "story" behind each song, which she occasionally shares on stage, makes the music that much better, especially because some of the songs are nearly impossible to figure out by just guessing. By the end of the show, you're already looking forward to the next time you're going to be able to see them, and they haven't even finished the set yet.

The sound, the show, and the intelligence make Jonatha Brooke and The Story a group worth listening to, a show worth seeing, and definitely a story worth telling. Jonatha Brooke and The Story will appear at a free concert held at South Station on Thursday, March 21 at 12 p.m. as part of the WBOS Lunchtime Concert series. For more information call the WBOS Events Line at 787-0929.