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I have things to do. The house is a mess, my bills are going unpaid and my writing assignments are hideously overdue. There's dinner to make and car repairs to be done. But I've spent the last hour staring into space, nodding along with the sounds of Some Old Lonesome Day. Even now that the last harmonica strains have faded into the night, I'm distracted, waiting for Lauren Sheehan's performance to start again.
Some Old Lonesome Day manages to bring the immediacy and engagement of a live performance to a studio CD. Most of the songs are indeed recorded live, but with a studio sharpness that few live albums can match. Sheehan's casual, clear voice seems to be coming from right around the corner, as though you could walk into another room and ask for one of your favorite tunes.
Most of these tunes are bound to be someone's favorite. Some Old Lonesome Day is mostly a collection of folk tunes, with a couple of latter-day creations keeping them good company. There are simple songs of home and ballads of illicit love, including "The House Carpenter," a familiar tale of doomed illegal lovers with a deadly end. Folk music also has whimsical, fantastic side that's often left behind. Sheehan honors it with the tongue-knotting a cappella rhymes of "Rattlesnake Mountain" and the picturesque adventures of "The Monkey and the Engineer." These treasures are delivered with an earnest, open voice backed by various instruments played with a hint of blues and the feel of country, but without ever leaving the folk sensibilities behind.
Perhaps the most haunting song is, fittingly, "The Werewolf," which is indeed a musical homage to the near-human monster. Sheehan delivers the tale of woe with a drawn out, howling chorus that should be ludicrous but instead turns eerie and lonesome. A harmonica echoes her lyrics with a growling sigh, creating music that conjures up foggy nights and invisible sounds, slinking shadows and whispering owls. It's a standout song on a fine album, the proof of how much poetry and feeling Sheehan delivers through her music. Whether discovering true love or whistling her way through the graveyard, Lauren Sheehan clearly has enough spirit and skill to come through Some Old Lonesome Day smiling.
Written by Sarah Meador
Published 14 February 2004
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