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Album Review

The 2010 Lakeshore Records release Volume 1 is a renamed reissue of Melissa Dougherty's self-titled debut album, originally released in 2000. Dougherty is a highly idiosyncratic artist. On these songs, she tends to set up a simple, repetitive pattern played on an acoustic or electric guitar, sometimes with one or more instruments added here and there, over which she sings her lyrics in what seems to be at least a semi-improvised manner. She brings to mind a host of female pop singers including Nina Simone, Kate Bush, Tori Amos, Laura Nyro, Patti Smith, and PJ Harvey, and, among men, the more trancelike efforts of Tim Buckley, Tim Hardin, and Van Morrison. Like Dougherty, all of these performers revel in the dynamics of their own voices, but either out of greater musical training or a more restricted pop sensibility, they take a more structured approach to their music than Dougherty does. Her style is closer to musical recitative and more incantatory. She rarely seems concerned about rhyming her lyrics, and her melodies simply follow the contours of her words. Even before she begins singing through a filter that sounds like a guitar amp in "Fading Camera" or simply goes a cappella on "The Sound That Resounds," it's clear that she is more interested in found effects than in form. In this sense, her most obvious influence would seem to be Jewish cantorial singing. It is not surprising that her debut album went largely unnoticed in 2000, but it also isn't surprising that somebody thought enough of it to reissue it here. This is the kind of record a listener is either going to love or hate. It also may be an acquired taste, though, so those who hate it at first would be well advised to listen a couple of more times before deciding.

Volume 1, Melissa Dougherty
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