Record Review - 3 July 24 2003
Erin McKeown is many things at once, most of which seem to be on display on Grand, her third record. By the time she finishes her 14-song journey through a smorgasbord of musical landscapes, the Virginia native has done them all proud. Like the late, versatile Kirsty MacColl, McKeown — who plays guitar, banjo, mandolin, bass, drums, organ, piano and accordion on this record — borrows from jazz, Tin Pan Alley and lounge.
Beginning with "Slung-lo" and "Cinematic," feel-good girl-pop at its finest, McKeown goes on to swing with "The Taste of You," then brings out the banjo (played by producer Dave Chalfant) for the country "Born to Hum," a song so damn happy it would make Dick Cheney smile. She pays tribute to idol Judy Garland on "Lucky Day," turning the upbeat jazz number into a torch song; "Cosmopolitans" is based on Garland's freaky audio diaries.
McKeown's inspirations are as numerous as her musical influences. Fitting her ethereal vocal stylings, "An Innocent Fiction" evolved from Arthur Miller's play, The Performance, about a Jewish tap-dancer who escapes the concentration camps by dancing for Hitler. Grand's closer, the gentle, piano-filled "Vera," was inspired by classical pianist Igor Stravinsky's mistress and eventual wife.
McKeown is much too talented and versatile for radio, which thrives on easily categorized, familiar-sounding artists. Here's hoping she stays true to her eclectic sources.