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Music Review: Jonatha Brooke: 10 cent wings -- A good duo splits into one has-been, one no-show



By Joel M. Rosenberg
Staff Reporter

When I first heard The Story back in 1992, I thought that they had one-upped the Indigo Girls as the folk-rock-chick duo by taking themselves and their songs less seriously, without compromising their sound or their message. Their first album, Grace in Gravity (Elektra 1992) had songs about the Little Mermaid and one of Gary Larson's Far Sides. The second album included a tune about societal obesity and a reprise sung by some Mariachi singers.

There was no third album. Artistic and philosophical differences caused the 12-year partnership to end, and since then Jennifer Kimball has been slowly trying to build a solo career, something that Jonatha Brooke did right away. Jonatha's first "solo" album (actually released as Jonatha Brooke and The Story, for marketing purposes), Plumb (Blue Thumb 1995), lacked a certain something that The Story had-perhaps humor, perhaps soul, perhaps Jennifer. Brooke's new release, 10 Wings (Refuge/MCA Records) lacks something even Plumb had-something new to offer.

Apparently concentrating on "simplicity," she's largely successful, although simple is not necessarily better. "Because I Told You So" is a nice tune that has some nice tension building and resolve, but sounds awfully like stuff from her last effort. "Glass Half Empty" starts like a Beck song then turns into something closer to hip-hop. It's her tribute to her friend Kevin Gilbert who toured with her for her last album, and died unexpectedly last year. "Annie" is the coda of the album, a return to some extent to the acoustic, heartfelt feeling of previous albums. Still, it falls a little short.

Jonatha has a great voice, and a great concept of how to use melodies and harmonies in funky, unique ways. But the songs are sort of lifeless, almost forced. "It's about relationships, my last innocent year and more changes than I could have imagined," is what it says in the press release. Which is fine, only these changes seem to taken some of the poignancy from the songs, made the music sound more depressed, and moved it from the folk section, where they shined, to the chick-rock section, where there's more competition and less ambition. Perhaps falling now into the category of "coffee pop," everything sounds contrived, like they're all destined to be drive-time tunes that come and go in a week. It sounds harsh, but it's disappointing to see two sub-par offerings coming from this talented artist.