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October 4, 1995

The Next Time

Natalie MerchantNatalie Merchant, Tigerlily (Elektra 1995) - Oh, how we mourned the loss of 10,000 Maniacs. Having run the road from college/alternative favorites to bona-fide stars, the tension of the big leagues finally became too much for 10,000 Maniacs. While Natalie's decision to break up the band after six studio albums left us sad, it also produced one of 1994's finest discs, 10,000 Maniacs MTV Unplugged.

Merchant is a smart, opinionated woman, whose family values won't allow her to record any "fuck-and-run" songs. Merchant's morals inspire strong feelings among her audience: detractors call her moody and whimsical, while supporters (including me) call her original and invigorating.

On Tigerlily, Merchant doesn't reinvent herself; rather, she finally reaps the full benefits of her indulgences. To record the album, she assembled an entirely new band consisting of Peter Yanowitz on drums, Barrie Maguire on bass, and Jennifer Turner on guitars (Merchant supplies the vocals and keyboards). The new group rehearsed for five months before recording at historic Bearsville Studios in Woodstock, New York. Merchant self-produced the album, with assistance from engineer John Holbrook.

Admittedly, Tigerlily contains some slower songs, including "Beloved Wife." However, Merchant more than redeems herself with uptempo rockers such as "Carnival" (featuring tremendous backing vocals from Katell Keineg) and "Wonder."

"Carnival" is the album's lead-off single, and is a perfect showcase for Merchant's songwriting and vocal skills; Merchant paints a searing portrait of modern society, noting that "I've walked these streets/In a spectacle of wealth and poverty."

The album's understated gem is "Where I Go," a charming folk-influenced number that ought to be the next single from the album. "Where I Go" has a gentle, soothing feeling that sparkles with Jennifer Turner's guitar playing.

There should be room in the pop world for women like Merchant. Instead of riot girrls, why can't we have thought-provoking, intelligent singers? Tigerlily may not be a classic, but it's still deserving of a wide audience.

SuburbsThe Suburbs, Viva! Suburbs! (Twin/Tone 1994) - Minneapolis-based The Suburbs, long a local favorite, cut a smoking live disc in Viva! Suburbs! Featuring 20 tunes, the album shows the band at its best-loud, brash, and fast.

The band consists of Bruce C. Allen on guitar and vocals, Beej Chaney on guitar and vocals, Michael Halliday on bass, Hugo Klaers on drums, Chan Poling on keyboards and vocals, and a four-person horn section (two trumpets and two saxes).

Viva! Suburbs! was recorded at the legendary First Avenue in Minneapolis in the spring of 1993, and confirms my memories of First Avenue (made famous by Prince on Purple Rain); the acoustics aren't perfect, with a big, boxy sound.

However, the Suburbs use the hall to its best advantage on Viva! Suburbs! The band never slows down during this 72-minute disc; as they note, "Anything more fun than this show is probably against the law, and judging from the amount of people removed from the club that night by the police, it is."

The disc is non-stop, three-minute dance tunes, with tracks like "Tape Your Wife to the Ceiling," "Drinkin' With An Angel," and "Cows."

Steamy, horn-driven rock 'n roll is alive and well. For proof, try Viva! Suburbs!

Katie TrickettKatie Trickett, The Next Time (Lawson Records 1995) - Honey-voice newcomer, Katie Trickett, is poised to take the country world by storm. On this 30-minute album, Trickett continues in the same country vein as Linda Ronstadt, Patsy Cline, and Emmylou Harris, with a voice that is clear as a bell and as honest as the day is long.

Maybe that description sounds cliched, but Katie has real talent. Only 20, she is now a sophomore at the University of Southern California. Katie comes from a musical family, and has been on stage for years. Her father, Ed Trickett, is a psychologist, and is also a folk singer with eight solo albums on the Folk Legacy label.

In 1994, Katie won a talent contest at the legendary Palomino Club in Los Angeles; this contest provided the springboard to The Next Time, which was produced by Chad Watson, a bass player and songwriter who worked with Janice Ian and The Flying Burrito Brothers. The album also features accordion legend Aggie Meyer, Allan Rich (from the Texas Tornados), former Burrito Brother and fiddler extraordinaire Byron Berline, and ex-Byrd John York.

In discussing The Next Time, Katie admits that, "I never liked folk music that much when I was little. I was a little bit too rambunctious. I was into rock. Country attracted me because it was more exciting-with electric guitar-and the lyrics were just as beautiful." With a laugh, Katie adds that her father "still likes folk music better. But he's happy if I'm happy."

And Katie should be happy with The Next Time. While the album is rooted in a country sound, it offers a rich tapestry of uptempo songs with danceable rhythms along with captivating ballads. The album opens with a slower number ("The Next Time") before shifting into such upbeat songs as "Autumn Eyes" and "When You Were Here."

Trickett has a lovely, expressive voice, which is best captured on "Lonely Road Home," a song with Basia-esque overtones that reveals the breadth of Trickett's talents. With her perfect voice, don't be surprised if Trickett develops into a full-fledged pop singer.

While only 30 minutes long, The Next Time is a terrific showcase for Katie. Get on the bandwagon early, before she reaches the big time.

-- Randy Krbechek

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