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The Grotto

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Album Review

The best albums Kristin Hersh has made throughout her career — both with Throwing Muses and as a solo artist — have been the ones that have been the most conducive to compulsive listening. Throwing Muses (the first one), University, and Hips and Makers aren't the kind of records one throws on for a few minutes to get a quick fix; they either spend an entire night being played over and over, or they just take up residence in the player for weeks on end, until it's forgotten that anyone else has ever made music. The Grotto, released the same day as Throwing Muses' first record since 1996's Limbo, doesn't fall into that category. As always, Hersh accompanies herself on guitar; Andrew Bird contributes some violin, and Howe Gelb provides piano. The songs, while as elegant and naturally paced as they've ever been, tend to merely drift along. Once they seem to be on the verge of completely unraveling, Hersh's acoustic coils back and allows the song to keep running. Unpredictability has always been one of the best assets held by Hersh's guitar, but there are several instances where it seems to run willy-nilly. By the end of the album, nothing has truly stuck — nothing is instantly implanted on the memory like "Sundrops"' frenzied runs or "Ruby"'s sudden shifts from bright jangle to hypnotic picking. The lyrics are another story. The opening "Sno Cat" tells how a quick scenic drive helped her get over a fight with her husband. One image she sees is impossible to shake once drawn: "A man made of butterfat/Careening around on a sno cat." Plenty of other lines are just as wondrous and not nearly as easy to decipher, proving that she hasn't slacked at all as a lyricist.


Born: 07 August 1966 in Atlanta, GA

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

After the release of Throwing Muses' fifth album, Red Heaven, Kristin Hersh, the band's lead singer/songwriter, took a break from the group and issued her first solo album, the acoustic Hips and Makers, in early 1994. Thanks to the airplay the single "Your Ghost" -- a duet with R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe -- received, the album sold more copies than any of the Muses' releases. Later that year, Hersh also released the Strings EP, which featured versions of selected songs from the album recorded with a...
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The Grotto, Kristin Hersh
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